The tail of the Douglas DC-3 plane owned by rock and roll legend Ricky Nelson is suspended from the ceiling of The Williams House Museum in De Kalb, Texas.
For years, pieces of the DC-3 airplane that crash-landed and burned, killing child TV star and rock legend Ricky Nelson 30 years ago Thursday, rested in a barn in east Texas with no one to claim it.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member died with six other passengers in the New Year's Eve crash near De Kalb, Texas.
It was one of the biggest events ever in the town of about 1,700 people. The remains of Nelson's plane sit in a sparsely visited museum as a reminder of the day the town was thrust into the national spotlight.
The anniversary of Nelson's death, at 45, drew a only few curious visitors, who remembered the pop star who grew up on the TV show "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet," that starred his parents.
He later became a teen idol and topped the charts with songs like "Hello Mary Lou" and "Travelin' Man."
For a few residents, the anniversary was a time to look back on that day three decades ago.
"We were in the field beside it feeding some cows and then we saw this plane flying real low and smoke was following behind it," De Kalb resident Randy Barrett said of that day.
It landed in the field beside him. The plane "just ran out of pasture and burned up," he said.
Also killed in the crash were Nelson’s fiancée, Helen Blair, 27, and bandmates Patrick Woodward, 35; Rick Intveld, 32; Andy Chaplain, 30; Clark Russell, 35, and Bobby Neal, 38.
A National Transportation Safety Board report said a pilot advised air traffic controllers there was smoke in the cockpit and the DC-3 would not be able to reach nearby airports.
While attempting to land, the plane struck transmission wires, a utility pole and ran into trees, damaged by fire and impact, the report said. The pilots escaped through the cockpit windows, but the passengers did not get out.
"I think about it every New Year's," said Barrett. "I think about it every time I go that way."
After the town settled back down, parts of the wreckage remained in the field and years later were placed in a yard next to the Williams House Museum, a converted railroad house displaying town memorabilia.
The museum was given the nod to display the wreckage by some of the band members' families and later by Nelson's youngest child, Sam Nelson.
NTSB Identification: DCA86AA012
The docket is stored on NTSB microfiche number 29185.
Accident occurred Tuesday, December 31, 1985 in DEKALB, TX
Aircraft: DOUGLAS DC-3, registration: N711Y
Injuries: 7 Fatal, 2 Serious.
AT 1708:48, WHILE CRUISING AT 6000', A PILOT OF N711Y ADVISED ATC, 'I THINK I'D LIKE TO TURN AROUND, HEAD FOR TEXARKANA HERE, I'VE GOT A LITTLE PROBLEM.' HE WAS PROVIDED A VECTOR & ADVISED OF CLOSEST AIRPORTS. SHORTLY AFTER, HE STATED HE WOULD BE UNABLE TO REACH THE AIRPORTS. AT 1711:49, HE SAID THERE WAS SMOKE IN THE COCKPIT. WHILE LANDING IN A FIELD AT 1714, THE AIRCRAFT HIT WIRES & A POLE THEN CONTINUED INTO TREES WHERE IT WAS EXTENSIVELY DAMAGED BY IMPACT & FIRE. THE CREW EGRESSED THRU THE COCKPIT WINDOWS. THE PASSENGERS DID NOT ESCAPE. DURING FLIGHT, THE CREW WAS UNABLE TO START THE CABIN HEATER; DESPITE REPEATED ATTEMPTS BY THE CAPTAIN. SMOKE THEN ENTERED THE CABIN. FRESH AIR VENTS & COCKPIT WINDOWS WERE OPENED, BUT SMOKE BECAME DENSE. THE CREW HAD DIFFICULTY SEEING. THE OXYGEN SYSTEM & HAND HELD FIRE EXTINGUISHERS WERE NOT USED. FASTENERS FOR THE HEATER DOOR WERE FOUND UNFASTENED. EXAMINATION INDICATED THE FIRE ORIGINATED IN THE AFTCABIN AREA, RIGHT HAND SIDE, AT OR NEAR THE FLOOR LINE. THE IGNITION AND FUEL SOURCES WERE NOT DETERMINED.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
REASON FOR OCCURRENCE UNDETERMINED
EMERGENCY PROCEDURE..NOT FOLLOWED..PILOT IN COMMAND
OXYGEN SYSTEM..NOT USED