Flight 349: Never-before-seen pix in '59 crash

news-crashbPhil Bradley survived 36 hours (plus at least 50 years) after the crash.

While several newspaper photographers slipped up to the top of Bucks Elbow Mountain 50 years ago to photograph the rescue and recovery operation after Piedmont Airlines Flight 349 was discovered with a sole survivor 36 hours after it went down in fog, another photographer reached the scene and has revealed his photographs for the very first time.

Ed Roseberry, who would go on to fame as a leading chronicler of Charlottesville and University life in the 1960s, was there on the Mountain in 1959 with with his 4x5 Speed Graphic camera to capture images of survivor Ernest Philip "Phil" Bradley as Bradley was taken up the mountain in a stretcher. The images did not come easy.

Roseberry, then 34, had driven his new Vauxhall station wagon up the Skyline Drive on the morning of

Sunday, November 1, the day the plane's wreckage was discovered by a sharp-eyed Air Force man. After getting turned away from the dirt road connecting to Bucks Elbow, Roseberry snagged a ride with a television crew. Then, when he tried to pass the cordon to reach the scene, a National Guardsman issued a warning.

news-crashaOfficials ready Bradley for the steep slopes of Bucks Elbow.

"He said, 'You can't go down there,'" recalls Roseberry. "We can shoot you."

"I said, 'Okay, I'm going, and I ran."

The result are these two never-before-published photographs of Bradley getting rescued. Roseberry regrets that he has a conflict Saturday that prevents him from attending the 50th anniversary ceremony at Mint Springs Valley Park, which will feature a talk by the survivor himself, at the granite monument Bradley donated a decade ago.

"I would love to be there because I have never met the man," says Roseberry. "The only time I saw him was when they were dragging him up the hill."
The 50th anniversary commemoration begins at 10am Saturday just past the entrance to the Park. Following the hour-long ceremony, Richmond-based hiker Bryce Allison will lead a six-mile round-trip trek to the crash site, which still holds much of the wreckage.

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Saturday morning’s tribute to those deceased was a fitting memorial to the 50th anniversary of the crash. I had the opportunity to meet a number of surviving family members and relate to them what I found on my retracing of the flight path as published in the official CAB findings and whether or not the flight could have taken that path.

There is more work to be done on continuing to find the real cause of the tragedy, as the CAB used speculative information to close a case that should have been investigated further so as to not place blame on the flight crew based on the lack of facts presented.

I hope to bring closure those families who are still wondering how this tragedy could have occured.

That same day, November 1, 1959, my father, Ed Gill, was searching the mountains of Amherst County for the missing Flight 349. Dad had a keen interest in the outcome because he worked for Chapstick and knew one of the the passengers, Lawrence Whitehouse. When the announcement came over the radio that the wreckage had been located, Dad drove to the Crozet area and hiked to the site. He took his home movie camera and filmed 65 seconds of silent, color footage of the recovery effort. His video clearly shows the plane, debris, and National Guardsmen transporting victims. I recently converted the footage from reel-to-reel to DVD.

Forty years later, in 1999, Dad and I met Phil Bradley in Lynchburg, and he was kind enough to autograph the book he authored about his experience on Flight 349.

Skip, you risked your life to help solve this mystery. Your dedication to telling the true story will forever be appreciated.

Nice story man ! Would love to see that footage on youtube .