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The Devastating 1978 Helicopter Crash That Claimed Eight Lives in Derry, PA

A helicopter crash killed eight bystanders at the St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church during a three day Labor Day event in 1978. The accident occurred when a Hughes 269C helicopter crashed into the crowd, killing eight and injuring nineteen during a ping-pong ball drop.

The helicopter was piloted by Pam Nelson of Nelson Aviation and was contracted by the church on behalf of Leo E. Allison, the church janitor and event organizer. Both Leo Allison and his 15-year-old daughter were also in the helicopter during the crash, but were not seriously injured. Pam Nelson also survived the crash.

Pam Nelson claimed the the engine of the helicopter shut off while hovering above the crowd, although a later investigation and test from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported that the engine did not malfunction. Nelson was not held criminally liable for the accident, but was forced to resign her pilot’s license.

The FAA also discovered in their investigation that Nelson Aviation canceled a new engine purchase for the helicopter only weeks before it had crash. Furthermore, Nelson Aviation failed to conduct a full engine inspection and overhaul at 1,000 hours flight time and even knew of “excessive wear” on the throttle linkage, which would be the main cause of the engine malfunction.

Other videos related to helicopter accidents as heard from the episode.

Hosted by
Jon Perry

Hey y'all I'm the main story teller on our podcast episodes. You can suggest stories for me to cover by leaving a comment on any post on this site, which I will see and respond to. If you want to listen and subscribe to the podcast just search Talk Murder To Me in any podcasting app. Thanks for reading, please share!

  • Jon, you said that Americans are the chosen people but that is a scary thought as that would mean for the last four years, Donald Trump is literally the chosen one

  • Jon, thanks for doing the story I suggested. Though I’m not from that town, I split my time between Pittsburgh PA and Charleston SC and one of my friends who grew up there told me a lot about this, and the aftermath of the town.

    Thanks for doing this podcast (all three of you). You make my 11 hour drive between cities each month seem to go a bit faster.

    I have another good suggestion about two sisters of an Iowa senator who were murdered in their home on my street a few years ago. Also, never covered.

    Cheers!
    Erin

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