Excerpted from the Nashville Banner – March 5th, 1963
Plane Debris Yields Bodies At Camden
Camden – The remains of four country music personalities,
including three nationally known Grand Ole Opry stars, were found
this morning in the scattered bits of a private plane which crashed
in rugges woodlands near here. The victims were Patsy Cline,
Cowboy Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins, and Randy Hughes,
believed to be the pilot of the ill-fated aircraft.
The wreckage was discovered about 6 a.m. after a night-long
search by Highway Patrol, Civil Defense and local officers.
Parts of the yellow plane and bits of human flesh were scattered
over a 60-yard area a mile off Highway 70 about three miles west
of Camden. The wreckage was between the highway and a ranger
tower, which had served as a base of operations for searchers.
Civil Defense official Dean Brewer, asked whether all four bodies
had been located, replied:
“There’s not enough to count . . . They’re all in small pieces.”The
plane left Dyersburg about 6 p.m. Tuesday for a flight to Nashville.
The entertainers had been in Kansas City for a benefit
performance for the late Cactus Jack Call, a disc jockey.
Sam Webb, whose farm is near the dense woodlands said he saw
a plane circling his home about 7 p.m. and that it was “revving up
its motor. . . going fast and then slow, like it was attempting to
climb.” Webb said the plane left his sight and then he heard
something “like it struck the top of some trees.”
The weather in the area at the time of the accident was termed
“extremely turbulent.” Investigators of the Civil Aeronautics Board
were enroute to the crash scene to make a detailed probe of the
wreckage in an effort to learn the cause of the smashup.
Meanwhile in another phase of the investigation, Dr. J.S.
Butterworth, CAB medical examiner, and Dr. A. T. Hix, Benton
County Medical Examiner were examining the remains of the four
victims. The wreckage was located by searchers using field glasses
in the fire tower and almost simultaneously by ground searchers
Lewis and Claude Bradford, brothers who farm near the scene,
and W. J. Hollingsworth of Sandy River Road.
The plane apparently struck a large tree before hitting the ground.
Pieces of the aircraft were hanging in the tree and a three-foot hole
marked the spot where the main part of the fuselage struck the
ground. The terrain in the area is so rugged that some searchers
returning during the night were covered with bruises, scratches and
blood and according to one observer, “looked like they had been in
a bear fight.” The wreck scene is about five miles west of the
Tennessee River. After the wreckage was located, about a 100
cars lined Old Stage Road, about 150 yards from the scene.
Benton County Sheriff Loye Furr described the area as “full of
woods, hills, hollows and swamps.
Refueling Stop The single-engine plane stopped at Dyersburg
to refuel and the Dyersburg Airport manager, Bill Braese, said
the occupants “had a cup of coffee.”
Postscript ~ A sidebar column from the Nashville Banner – March 5th or 6th.
“God was on my side,”Billy Walker said today. “Else how can you explain my being here — and Patsy, Copas and Hawk and Randy gone.” Walker, a Columbia recording artist and member of the Grand
Ole Opry, was one of the entertainers who appeared on the benefit show the past said the tall, hefty Texan. “I was not scheduled to ride in the plane. Actually there wasn’t enough room for me in the four-seater. So I went out and back on a commercial flight. There was some kidding about my size and how I weighed too much to get in the small ship. Ironic isn’t it that the final appearances of Patsy, Hawk,
Copas and Randy would be for commented Walker who lives on Jasperson Drive in Madison
(a suburb of Nashville). Walker’s recent recent record hits have been “Charlie’s Shoes,” “Willie
the Weeper” and “Funny How Time Slips Away”. “Sorta prophetic titles, aren’t they?” he asked. Today I’m fortunate just to be Billy Walker. “This terrible tragedy – and my nearness to it – will haunt me a long, long time.”