A Plane Crash Killed Entire Basketball Team, leaving one Boy, but Two Weeks Later, He also Died in a Car Crash

On December 13, 1977, the University of Evansville basketball team was heading to an away game against Middle Tennessee State. Friends and family gathered to see them off, unaware it would be the last time they saw the players alive. Moments after takeoff, their plane, an old Douglas DC-3, crashed, killing all 29 people on board. This tragic event left all of Indiana in shock.

The only person from the team who didn’t board the flight due to an injury died in a car crash two weeks later, adding another layer of sadness and irony to the story. Read the article to know what led to the tragic crash that took 29 lives.

The Missed Flight – Air Indiana Flight 216

The flight that crashed was on a Douglas DC-3, operated by a charter company called National Jet Service, which was leased through Air Indiana. The flight was bound for Nashville, Tennessee, carrying the University of Evansville basketball team, including players, coaches, and staff. The tragic crash resulted in 29 deaths, including 14 players, the coach, a sports announcer, and several others.

This flight was significant because the Evansville Purple Aces were a well-known team, having recently been promoted to Division I. The loss deeply affected the university and the local community, who were passionate supporters of the team.

The team had been delayed by bad weather, and when the plane finally arrived, it took off quickly to make up for lost time. However, the pilots, both immigrants with varied experience, made several critical errors, including improper weight distribution and failing to remove the gust locks from the control surfaces. This led to the plane losing control shortly after takeoff and crashing.

N51071, the aircraft involved in the accident. (Bob Garrard) Image Credit @ Medium
N51071, the aircraft involved in the accident. (Bob Garrard) Image Credit @ Medium

The Boy Who Lived

David Furr, the only team member who didn’t board the flight, was the sole survivor from the University of Evansville basketball team. He was not able to travel with his teammates due to an ankle injury. He was grateful to be alive but devastated by the loss of his teammates and friends. The incident had a profound impact on the community, which mourned the sudden and tragic loss.

The crash’s emotional toll was immense, with families, friends, and the university grappling with the shock. Furr himself expressed his sorrow, saying he wished he could have been with his team. His family also shared their heartbreak, emphasizing the deep bond between the players.

The 1977 squad that perished in the crash, including coaches and staff. (Evansville Courier Press) Image from Medium

Tragic Car Crash

Tragically, just two weeks after the plane crash, David Furr and his younger brother died in a car accident. The crash occurred while they were returning from a basketball game in Illinois. The vehicle they were in lost control, leading to a fatal collision. This second tragedy struck the already grieving community hard, making the loss even more profound.

Witnesses described the scene as chaotic and heart-wrenching. The police report confirmed the accident’s circumstances, highlighting the cruel twist of fate that claimed Furr’s life so soon after he escaped death.

The Evansville Courier Press ran a full page spread with the faces of the lost basketball players. Image Credit @ Medium

The story of the University of Evansville basketball team is a poignant reminder of life’s unpredictability. The tragic plane crash that claimed the lives of 29 individuals and the subsequent death of David Furr in a car accident highlights the fragility of life.

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