By: Bill Schock
August 6th, 1966, a horrible day in the lives of the families of the 42 persons killed in the crash of Braniff Airways flight 250 in the Tony Schawang soy bean field 10 miles northeast of Falls City. August 6, 2016, a day of remembrance, healing and hopefully a degree of closure for those families on the 50th anniversary of the crash.
The memorial anniversary event was planned and executed by the Richardson County Historical Society. Approximately 100 attended, including many family members of flight 250.
The day’s event began at 9:30 am with coffee and rolls served in the county museum’s Ag Building. Following the social hour, Sacred Heart School busses provided transportation to the crash sight where 10 years ago a memorial was erected to acknowledge the disaster on the 40th anniversary. The marker was donated and erected by Kenny and Korey Schawang and Dan Scholl.
The Rev. Nile Buch of Lincoln presided in a moving memorial service as he had done on the 40th anniversary of the jet liner crash. Rev. Buch read prepared remarks; “It is very infrequent that a commercial airliner experiences a crash landing. But one tragic moment happened 50 years ago today. We want to remember that event because it has had a powerful impact on the lives of so many folks. Forty-two individuals died when a thunderstorm became an overpowering obstacle. Life has never been the same after this happening but life has continued to move us forward in our journey on this earth. Today we want to reflect for the sake of experiencing more of the wisdom and healing resulting from what happened on August 6th, 1966. We always
give thanks to God for giving us the opportunity to reflect that we might experience the joy of living in spite of great sorrow.”
Fr. Tom Dunavan offered brief, comforting remarks, also noting that the day was being observed by Catholics as the Feast of the Transfiguration.
Wanda Biel of Verdon spoke briefly and then read the names of all 42-crash victims. After each name was read a bell was chimed. It was very fitting as well as emotional.
Jim Davidson of the Falls City Ceremonial Honor Guard played “Taps.”
The Lord’s Prayer was prayed in unison.
Many camera phones captured the scene.
The busses returned their passengers to the Ag Building where an excellent luncheon was prepared and served to the crowd by Historical Society members with Ann Meinzer in charge.
Richard Meinzer, president of the Historical Society, presided over an interesting extemporaneous session. Mayor Jerry Oliver welcomed the crowd to Falls City.
Those speaking included, Loren Duerksen, whose sister, Jean, was lost in the crash; Dan Hilliker, son of the plane’s co-pilot Flight officer, James Hilliker, who introduced the 9 members of his family in attendance; Sandy Hilliker, Dan’s wide; Joan Auxier, curator of the county museum; and Steve Pollock, author of a must-read account of the air crash, “Deadly Turbulence: The Air Safety Lesson of Braniff Flight 250” The book is available through amazon.com. Another book based on the tragedy is “Falls City,” a novel by Kit Wilson.
Pollock gave a fascinating Power Point presentation tracing Braniff Flight 250 from its origin in New Orleans to the crash scene. He gave a detailed account of the weather conditions that caused the break up of the airliner. Pollock said it was determined that the aircraft flew into “a horizontal tornado of unbelievable intensity.”
In conclusion, four Braniff employees thanked the community for its overwhelming support and response to the disaster, and family members expressed appreciation to Falls City and the Historical Society for the extraordinary day of healing.