Gander crash anniversary ceremony highlights Hopkinsville’s ties to Fort Campbell
Fort Campbell’s connection to Hopkinsville and the other civilian communities surrounding the Army installation is perhaps never more deeply felt than on the anniversary of the Dec. 12, 1985, air crash at Gander, Newfoundland, that killed 248 soldiers and eight crew members.
The 37th annual memorial service Monday at Hopkinsville’s Gander Memorial Park brought together Fort Campbell officials, local community members and family members of some of the fallen soldiers for a remembrance of the tragedy.
“While keenly aware that Task Force 3-502 and the Gander crash are a vital part of our shared Strike history, they’re also deeply rooted in the communities we call home,” said Lt. Col. Todd Haralson. “And that’s why we are here today. To ensure that our fallen 248 Task Force 3-502 soldiers are never forgotten.”
Haralson, of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, said the civilian communities are forever linked to the soldiers.
The Hopkinsville park on Fort Campbell Boulevard at Pennyrile Parkway was developed immediately after the crash to honor the soldiers and provide a permanent memorial that family members could visit.
On the day of the crash, the soldiers were returning to Fort Campbell from a six-month deployment to the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt.
The charter flight stopped at Gander to refuel. When the DC-8 jet stalled shortly after take-off and crash in a forest a short distance from the end of the runway. There were no survivors. Canadian aviation officials later ruled that ice on the wings caused the jet to crash.
Among the family members who attended Monday’s ceremony were three cousins — Kathleen Mollohan, Melissa Larimore and Jessica Grigsby. Their grandfather, Command Sgt. Maj. Haslund Black, died in the crash.
They were invited to come forward at the service to place a gold star beside Black’s name on a stone marker that is part of the permanent display at the park.
When the crash occurred, many of the soldiers were carrying Christmas gifts they planned to give family when they arrived at Fort Campbell. Their relatives were preparing to go to the post that day to meet them.
Black was carrying two gifts — a necklace engraved with “Goldie” for his wife and a tin cup engraved with “Melissa” for the new granddaughter he anticipated holding for the first time, family members previously described in news media accounts. Melissa Larimore was a few weeks old when Black died. The necklace was later recovered from the wreckage. But the cup was never found.
The Christian County Military Affairs Committee hosted Monday’s ceremony.
The 16-acre Gander Memorial Park is open to the public during daylight hours, seven days a week.
This story was originally published by the Hoptown Chronicle.