The "Heaven Has a Floor" Crash
February 11th, 1977
Near Anthony, Kansas
Life Among the "Jet Set"...
It was to be a short weekend getaway from the flat-lands of Oklahoma to the snow-capped Rocky mountains. On the return trip, and only an hour from arriving home, disaster struck. Two businessmen, Marion Buzzard, a member of a long-time Oklahoma banking family and president and chairman of the State Bank of Grove and the First National Bank of Miami, Okla., and Marshall Nash, a director and vice chairman of the Commerce Bank of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and of the Buzzard banks at Grove and Miami, and also a regent of Oral Roberts University, drove to Aspen, Colorado, on a Thursday for a ski holiday. Their wives, Mary Lee Buzzard, 39, and Rebecca Roberts Nash, 37, flew from Tulsa to meet them on the next day. Mrs. Nash was the oldest daughter of Oral Roberts.
For their return flight, the groups utilized a twin-engine Piper Navajo airplane. Bearing a tail number of N59838, their pilot was Louis E. Taylor, 39, of Oklahoma City, who had also brought his wife, Carol, 38, along for the short jaunt. Taylor was an employee of Catlin Aviation of Oklahoma City, where he was described to be a fantastic pilot," and the flight was part of a sales demonstration to Nash and Buzzard. However, Taylor was not rated for multi-engine aircraft operation.
Pushing the Envelope...
The plane crashed in heavy rain just before 5 PM on the night of Friday, February 11th, 1977, cutting a swath about three-quarters of a mile long through a muddy wheat field on a farm 6 miles south of Anthony, Kansas, and killing all 6 aboard. The pilot's body was found strapped to his seat, and the bodies of the other victims were thrown clear of the wreckage.
"It was an in-flight breakup," said Del Valle, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation into the accident's cause. "There was no indication of fire. There was no indication of an explosion. The wreckage was spread over about three quarters of mile." Valle also stated that, "They were at 9,000 feet when they were in last communication. It was very close to the area where the plane eventually separated."
Cecil Osborn. a farmer living near the scene, said he heard the plane go into "a power dive and explode in a wheat field. It was just loud, more like a thunderous thud when it hit the ground." Osborn said. "It struck the ground, and the engine, wings and fuselage were all separated. It was strung out for about a half mile."
The NTSB cited the probable cause of the accident as pilot error, stating that he "exceeded (the) designed stress limits of (the) aircraft".