Information on Air America helicopter UH-34D tail number H-42
Incident number: 660519AA.KIA
Unit: AIR AMERICA LAOS
Casualties = 01 KIA, 01 WIA . .
Original source(s) and document(s) from which the incident was created or updated: Defense Intelligence Agency Helicopter Loss database. Also: AIRAM, Across the Mekong by Davis P:129+ ()
Summary: Pilot shot while landing in what was thought to be a safe area near LS-48. Crashed and rolled on side.
Loss to Inventory
P CPT WILMOT JOHN W JR KIA
FM LUCA MATT WIA
The tail number for this aircraft was 153124 which indicates it most likely originally belonged to the USMC, but Air America referred to this aircraft as Hotel 42. The following is an extract from Across the Mekong by Davis starting on page 129. Note that Davis names the dead pilot as Bill Wilmont while the AA Memorial has him John W. Wilmot Jr. After overnighting at Sam Thong and waiting for the weather to clear, Charlie Davis finally gets airborne and works his way north of the Plain of Jars. He writes: I had passed LS-50 and was almost abeam of LS-33, when I catch a glimpse of a helicopter very low to the ground in an area below LS-23. There is a pad nearby that I had landed on many times in the past when working out of the LS-36 area. This helicopter is coming to a hover and then lands on a grassy area to the north of the pad. About 30 yards past the landed chopper, I can see the source of all the anxiety. There is one of our green helicopters laying on its side, and the indications are that it had crashed. I transmit my call sign, Hotel-33, and say I will be circling this area if I am needed. The downed helicopter had been flown by Bill Wilmont. The flight mechanic had been injured but is still alive and the chopper that I saw landing is piloted by Steve Stevens. Stevens lands to pick up the wounded flight mechanic, then is back in the air, flying right under me. He says that he is heading for the hospital at Sam Thong. I recognize the voice of Marius Burke, the assistant chief pilot, as one of the other pilots I have been hearing. I ask Burke whether he wants me to do anything at the crash site, or to continue circling, or proceed on to LS-48 which is only minutes to the northeast. He says that the latter is the best plan as there is nothing to be done at the crash site at this time. When I land on the strip at LS-48, I can see two other helicopters in the refueling area and I taxi my helicopter over next to them and shut down. Lou McCasland is the pilot of one of the other machines and while talking to him I learn that Wilmont is indeed dead. He had been shot while attempting to make a landing. His flight mechanic, Matt Luca, was hurt and was the man I had seen Stevens pick up earlier. Stevenís flight mechanic, Rusty Irons, ran over near the crashed chopper and picked Luca off the ground, probably saving his life. There is a lot of confusion as well as unanswered questions about exactly what had happened to cause the crash. Dick Casterlin had been working the area earlier and he was piloting the first helicopter that attempted to land in that area. The bad guys were waiting and Casterlinís helicopter was hit several times. He frantically tried to make radio contact with other pilots in the area to warn them not to land in this area as it was extremely hot. He could not get any response from anyone. Not knowing if his radios were inoperative due to bullet damage or how long his helicopter would stay in the air, Casterlin climbed up into the low clouds to get away from the enemyís guns. He limped over to the nearby strip at LS-48 where he made a safe landing. Soon thereafter, Wilmont flew into the same area and met his disaster.
This record was last updated on 07/09/1999
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Date posted on this site: 09/23/2017
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