RALEIGH—Fifty years ago this week, a large chunk of eastern North Carolina nearly blew up.
A B-52 bomber carrying nuclear weapons crashed in 1961. This week the one living survivor, witness, and rescuer met for a reunion. The story of the B-52 crash is not about what happened but more about what did not happen.
It was the year 1961, Adam Mattocks was one of six pilots taking part in 24 hour bombing missions when something went wrong
“When we lost that fuel, the pilot on the right and me in the instructor seat saw the needle going down on number three tank,” said Mattocks.
Shortly after, a fuel tank exploded, a wing fell off and the plane fell to the ground.
“[There was] a noise I had never heard. [I] jumped out of bed and was facing where plane was coming down and my room was red from glare of flame,” said Billy Reeves, eyewitness.
Somewhere in the flames, two nuclear bombs somehow remained intact. Dr. Jack Revelle worked to recover the bombs after the crash.
“The bomb was speeding down 600-700 MPH and the moment it penetrated the ground it began to turn and ended up in a “J”j position,” said Revelle.
Some scientists believe a blast from one of the bombs would have wiped out an area as far as 50-60 miles from the crash site.
“You just wonder what could have happened. It's kind of scary,” said Earl Lancaster, first responder.
To this day the U.S. Government collects water samples in wells near the site of the crash. So far test results have come back negative for any significant radiation.