PATRICK J. CONROY, LTJG, USN
Patrick Conroy '77
Date of birth: March 9, 1954
Date of death: April 17, 1980
From The Washington Post on April 18, 1980 and quoted on VP Navy
PAGO PAGO, American Samoa--A U.S. Navy plane crashed yesterday outside a historic bayfront hotel after snagging aerial tramway cables during an Independence Day show in the capital of this U.S. territory in the South Pacific.
The Navy in Honolulu said seven persons died in the crash, including all six crewmen of the plane. The seventh victim was believed to have been a tourist.
One civilian, a Japanese man, was critically burned in the 10:10 a.m.--4:10 EST--crash that left one wing of the 250-room Rainmaker Hotel in flames, said Fred Rohlfing, who heads the American Samoa liaison office in Honolulu. Most of the guests were outside at the time to watch the show.
The plane was based at Moffett Field Naval Air Station, Calif. It had just dropped six U.S. Army parachute jumpers over Pago Pago's central square.
Three jumpers were blown off their target and the plane turned, apparently to follow their descent, when it snagged on a cable of the cross-bay tramway, a witness said.
The four-engine P3 Orion turboprop narrowly missed the main square, jammed with an estimated 30,000 natives and tourists here for the scheduled two-day celebration. WebSite: Fleet AW Association http://www.tourohio.com/fleetaw/Memorial/Buchanan.html
The Navy identified the dead as:
LT Allen Glenny, San Jose, Calif, Pilot
LT(jg) Patrick Conroy, Missouri City, Texas, Copilot
Nathan Scates, Milpitas, Calif, Flight Engineer
Stephen Buchanan, Mountain View, Calif, Radar Operator
Thomas Delviscio, Avalon, N.J., Inflight Technician
J.H. Sharp, Flight Engineer
The bodies were flown from the Territory Friday night for burial.
The Civilian who died in the accident has been identified as Robert Burns - a local NASA worker. Kiyoshi Nagai, 35 of Tokyo, was seriously burned in the tragedy and was evacuated to Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu - Thursday night for treatment where he was listed in critical condition.
In honor of the dead, memorial services were held on the Fagatogo malae Friday Morning with several hundred people in attendance. Telegrams of mourning poured in from several island nations, including Western Samoa and Fiji, and were read aloud to the assembly.
Church choirs representing several religions sang hymns honoring the dead and fourteen fine mats were presented to local government leaders and to military officials in traditional Samoan style.
The exact cause of the crash is unknown and a Navy investigation team arrived in the territory Friday to probe the ruins. Several witnesses said they heard an explosion and saw one of the plane's engines burst into flames before hitting the tramway cable, which ripped of the aircraft's vertical stabilizer. "I heard a bloody boom, then three seconds later I saw the flames," said New Zealand Yachtsman Stanley Perrott. "It was such a beautiful bloody plane."
Mrs. Robert Japp, who lives near the hotel, said she heard a "tremendous explosion" and said she thought, "Oh my God, they're not doing this for the celebration." Japp said when the plane crashed it cut off the electricity immediately. "All I thought of was that oil tank down below," she said, referring to the island's main oil loading dock adjacent to the hotel. "I didn't try to save a thing" and left the house immediately, Japp said. The crash cut the power to the entire western end of the island but Electric utility workers restored power by 3 PM. Thursday. Telephone service to the hotel was also cut off. One former military pilot who served in the Viet Nam War said the pilot, Glenny, should be commended for avoiding the oil dock and not crashing directly into the hotel. By studying the pilot's last second maneuvers, the Viet Nam veteran said the pilot crashed the plane in the best spot available. Brown said all rooms that were destroyed in the hotel were rented but that most of the guests were at the malae for Flag Day. "It was an accident, you cant help it," Brown said. Several island residents opened up their homes to the travelers whose hotel rooms were destroyed in the blaze. Rescue efforts by the Territorial Fire Department were hampered by the large crowds that flocked to the scene and the department also had trouble with some fire equipment. One fire engine was stalled at the hotel road entrance for about 45 minutes and several fire hoses sprung leaks caused by sharp metal strewn about the hotel area from the crash. The fire was under control by about 3pm.
There were also reports of looting from the hotel as fire workers and volunteers hurled furniture from the rooms in a last ditch salvage effort. Larry Thompson, from Florida, said he saw several trucks laden with furniture leaving the hotel area. Hotel officials are requesting the goods be returned.
A woman from Oregon said one of the plane's engines was "definitely" on fire before the craft hit the cable and speculated that the pilot may have been attempting to land the plane in the harbor. But military personnel said it was too early to speculate about the cause of the crash. Lt. Peter Lindberg, who was an assistant crew-member on the aircraft but wasn't aboard because he "wasn't necessary for the drop," said it wasn't a "standard (emergency) maneuver" to land in the water and doubted the pilot intended to land the craft in the harbor. All six skydivers were reported in good condition, contrary to preliminary reports. The first set of three parachutists landed squarely on the malae but the second group landed on the mountain above the village of Fagatogo, one landing directly on a small taro patch. One jumper said landing on the mountainside was planned and said, "in no way is this jump related to the accident."
Richard Montgomery, chief of advertising for the Honolulu Recruiting Command, said there was "no communication with the plane after the last three jumpers left (the plane)." The plane was based at Moffett Naval Air Station in Mountain View, Calif. The senior officer in command was Army Col. Dave Harrison
Allen Glenny '74 was also lost in this crash.