Memorial service for 18 who died
US Air Force representatives pay respects to former colleagues 40 years after plane crash in Thorney
Amemorial service was held on Tuesday to mark 40 years since a US military aircraft crashed into a field in Thorney, killing all 18 people on board.
Representatives of the US Air Force and its Honour Guard (ceremonial guardsmen) visited Thorney Dyke to pay tribute to the 17 men and one woman who perished on August 28, 1976.
Farmer Peter Stuffins of Lodge Farm, Crowland Road, Thorney, remembers seeing the wreckage after spotting a helicopter from the back of his house and following it to the site of the crash.
“I could see it was doing reconnaisance and in the next field, in the corner, I got the greatest shock of my life when I saw the tail,” said Peter, who was 34 at the time.
“I looked up and could see fire engines. I went home and I was traumatised really.
“And on the same day they had another aircraft crash in Greenland from the same base.”
The C-141 Starlifter which crashed had been flying from McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey and was en route to RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk when it got caught in a storm.
Peter said: “It crashed only a couple of miles from villages but luckily no one else was hurt. The wing and tail snapped off and the plane fell in three different locations, a mile apart in a triangle.
“It was like a mangled scrapyard. There was nothing left which was recognisable.”
Tuesday’s service was marked by a period of silence and prayers, while three personnel of the original Thorney fire crew which was first on the scene 40 years ago also attended.
The service was held where a big memorial stone was erected 20 years ago, with the names of all the people who perished in the crash engraved on it.
Peter, who can remember several aircraft crashes in the Peterborough area over the years, added: “The Americans are very appreciative of what we are doing.”
John Culpin, chairman of the Thorney branch of the Royal British Legion
RAF Mildenhall honour guard from the 100th Air Refueling Wing
The memorial to the people who died in the crash
The field where the plane crashed
Peterborough Evening Telegraph clippings from the crash