HUNTINGTON, WV (WVNS) — One rainy night in 1970 is remembered year after year by every West Virginian.
On November 14, 1970, the Marshall Thundering Herd football program and boosters were returning home after a tough 17 to 14 loss to the East Carolina Pirates in Greenville, North Carolina.
Around 7:30 PM, as Southern Airways Flight 932 began to approach the Tri-State Airport in Huntington, West Virginia, the plane reportedly crashed into the hillside west of what was then runway 11, now runway 12.
According to the NTSB’s investigation, “…the probable cause of this accident was the descent below Minimum Descent Altitude during a non-precision approach under adverse operating conditions, without visual contact with the runway environment”
The plane was unfortunately carrying 37 Thundering Herd football players, 8 football staff members, 25 athletics boosters, two pilots, two flight attendants and the charter coordinator. With this flight being the only one of the 1970 season, many Marshall boosters and higher ups attended. This resulted in 70 kids losing at least one parent, with 18 being left orphaned.
Earlier in 1970, a plane carrying the Wichita State University football team also crashed. According to ESPN, this crash caused Marshall officials to rethink the scheduled flight, as Marshall rarely traveled by air due to the close proximity of most of their opponents.
The 1970 Marshall Thundering Herd plane crash remains the deadliest tragedy to affect a single sports program in United States history.
On November 12, 1972, the Memorial Fountain was dedicated in memory of the lives lost in the 1970 crash. Every year, on the crash’s anniversary, the fountain is turned off during a ceremony and is not turned back on until the following spring.
To this day, the crash is still such a big deal to the Mountain State and college sports as a whole. So much so, that Hollywood even made the movie, “We Are Marshall”, which chronicled the fallout and reformation of the Marshall football program after the plane crash.
Just remember that on every November 14th, we are all Marshall.