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Wichita State University Remembers Victims And Survivors On 50th Anniversary Of Plane Crash

A wreath stands in front of the Memorial 70 sculpture on the WSU campus.
Nicole Grimes
/
KMUW
A wreath stands in front of the Memorial 70 sculpture on the WSU campus.

Wichita State University held a memorial service at Cessna Stadium on Friday honoring both the victims and survivors of a plane crash 50 years ago.

On Oct. 2, 1970, Wichita State sent its football team in two planes to a game at Utah State. One plane crashed near Silver Plume, Colorado. The crash killed 31 passengers, including 14 players.

Listen: The Pieces That Remain: Remembering The Wichita State Plane Crash

"Families were stunned by the loss of sons, daughters, brothers and sisters," WSU Alumni Association CEO Courtney Marshall said at the ceremony. "Many young children were devastated by the loss of one or both parents."

A memorial on campus lists the names of those killed in the crash. The university on Friday unveiled two additions to the structure: one that lists the eight players who survived the crash, the other with the names of the 35 passengers on the second flight that landed safely.

A new marker was added to the Wichita State University memorial honoring the football players that survived the 1970 plane crash.
Credit Nicole Grimes / KMUW
/
KMUW
A new marker was added to the Wichita State University memorial honoring the football players that survived the 1970 plane crash.

Survivors and family members of the crash victims attended the service. Mike Bruce, a crash survivor, and John Straka, who was on the plane that landed safely, laid a wreath on the 50-yard line. The university also live-streamed the event.

The names of the 31 passengers that were killed were read after, followed by a student peformance of Pete Seeger's "Where Have All the Flowers Gone."

Survivors and family members of the crash victims gathered at Cessna Stadium for the memorial service.
Credit Nicole Grimes / KMUW
/
KMUW
Survivors and family members of the crash victims gathered at Cessna Stadium for the memorial service.

The ceremony also acknowledged John Putt, who, at 12 years, old, was a member of the Alpine Rescue Team that went to the scene 50 years ago. Since then, Putt has helped family members of the victims take the difficult climb to the crash site.

"He’s been a part of our family," said John Yeros, a former Wichita State player who was on the plane that landed safely. "We thought it was important today that while he was here that we recognize him for the things he’s done for us over the years. John, we thank you."

Copyright 2020 KMUW | NPR for Wichita

Stephan Bisaha is a former NPR Kroc Fellow. Along with producing Weekend Edition, Stephan has reported on national stories for Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as other NPR programs. He provided data analysis for an investigation into the Department of Veteran Affairs and reported on topics ranging from Emojis to mattresses.