Curtischristophercomer's Blog

Fifty Years Later…Another Possibility? | March 5, 2013

Anybody who knows anything about Patsy Cline knows, at the very least, that she was killed in a plane crash on March 5, 1963. Those who know a little bit more know that she was returning from a benefit concert in Kansas City, was travelling with fellow performers Cowboy Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins and Randy Hughes, pilot of the plane, Patsy’s manager and Cowboy Copas’ son-in-law. You probably also know that Patsy was only thirty years old when she died. For those of you (and here I am included) who know a little too much about Patsy, you know that Randy Hughes’ plane was a single engine, four seat Piper Comanche, serial number N7000P and that he had only taken possession of the plane in 1962, less than a year before the crash. You know that the weather between Kansas City and Nashville was extremely turbulent, necessitating numerous stops on the way back to Tennessee in order to let the bad weather pass on to the east. You know that their last stop was in Dyersburg, in western Tennessee, to refuel and that the airport manager warned them of the bad weather between Dyersburg and Nashville. After deciding to press on anyway, you know that the plane took off at 6:07 PM and crashed thirteen or eighteen minutes after takeoff in nearby Camden, Tennessee, killing all aboard (Patsy’s watch stopped at 6:25 but the plane’s dashboard clock stopped at 6:20). According to the report issued by the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), Randy Hughes was not an “instrument rated pilot,” meaning he could not tell the position of the plane without visual contact with the ground, that the engine was “developing substantial power at the time of the crash,” (leading investigators to believe that Randy thought he was climbing when he was, in fact, diving) and that its propellers severed the top of a tree, instantly separating the propellers, turning the plane upside down and plunging it into the ground at an estimated 280 miles per hour. It took just two seconds from the time the propellers struck the top of the tree to the plane hitting the ground. All aboard were killed instantly.
The next day, following the discovery of the wreckage, looters descended upon the site, stealing anything they could take as a souvenir of the event, including pieces of the plane and the three dresses that Patsy wore at her final concert. The dresses have not been recovered to this day. In the end, the cause of the crash was officially deemed “pilot error.”
When I was a kid, my mom liked to play her Patsy Cline records on the large stereo console in our living room. By the time I was born Patsy had already been dead two years, but Mom remained a huge fan of Patsy, an appreciation that had been cemented by her seeing Patsy in concert in nearby Joplin, Missouri sometime in 1962. It was there that Patsy had autographed one of my mom’s albums, To Nancy, Your friend, Patsy Cline. Neither I nor my little brothers were ever allowed to touch this album.
In 1985 I went to the theatre and saw the movie Sweet Dreams, the biopic about Patsy’s life. Around this same time my father sold the autographed album to a neighbor for twenty-five cents. It came as no surprise when the savvy neighbor refused to sell it back.
Fast forward to 2012: My mom has been gone for five years now and the fiftieth anniversary of Patsy’s death is quickly approaching. My fascination with Patsy Cline has begun to borderline on obsession; one whole room of the house I share with my partner, Tim, is entirely dedicated to Patsy…albums, singles, EPs, photos, magazines, newspapers, costumes, books, movies, movie posters…a mini museum tucked away in our unassuming two story brick house. It is this obsession that led me to a discovery a year ago, a discovery that threatened to challenge the findings of the CAB and to dramatically alter our perceptions of what we think happened on March 5, 1963.
The sudden loss of Patsy Cline, who appeared to have been finally attaining the fame she had so desperately fought for, leaves us to ponder the cause of the crash, perhaps too much. We consider the “what if’s” and “if only’s” and want to find other answers. Why did Randy decide to fly in bad weather? What if they had waited out the storm? Was the crash really caused by pilot error or was there some other cause?
One afternoon, while researching the crash yet again, I typed in the search “Piper Comanche.” Among the myriad search results was an article from the United Kingdom titled “This Should Not Happen to You,” and discussed accidents involving the Piper Comanche. The incident discussed one that occurred in 2001, and it sounded eerily familiar. (
In the 2001 crash, the pilot was flying a 1960 Piper Comanche and had just taken off from a local airfield with one passenger. According to the article, “takeoff at 1515 hours appeared normal” but at 1527 hours a “mayday” call was transmitted by another plane that witnessed the Comanche going into “a descent, pointing nose down, and ‘spiraling’ or ‘spinning.’”
The plane, like Randy Hughes’ plane back in 1963, was completely destroyed in the crash and both occupants were killed upon impact. It was this next bit of evidence, however, that differed so greatly from the 1963 crash and would send me on a quest that would last the better part of a year: according to the coroner reports, both pilot and copilot of the 2001 crash had suffered from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, caused by “exhaust gasses that escaped from a fatigue crack, which had formed in one of the stub pipes.” These gasses had entered the cabin through the heating vents and incapacitated the pilot within twelve minutes. Depending on which clock was correct, Patsy’s watch or the plane’s dashboard clock, Randy’s plane was in the air for either thirteen or eighteen minutes prior to the crash…far longer than the plane in the 2001 incident. And Randy’s plane had been in the air for hours prior to that, slowly making its way across the states of Missouri, Arkansas and into Tennessee behind the slow moving storm. Given the time of year, they were most certainly using the plane’s heater, as well. In fact, Patsy was reported to have complained about how cold the flight to Kansas City was (according to the CAB report, it was 43 degrees at the time of the crash). To add to the mix, all aboard were heavy smokers, and cigarette smoke is now known to elevate CO levels in the blood stream. The airport manager in Dyersburg noted later that, aside from fueling the plane, he also emptied the plane’s ashtrays.
Is it possible that carbon monoxide poisoning contributed to the crash? And, if so, wouldn’t this have been revealed in Randy Hughes’ autopsy? I remember reading that an autopsy was performed but, aside from that, nothing specific.
To test my hypothesis, at this point more of a “hunch,” I first consulted the existing biographies. According to Ellis Nassour, an autopsy was done “on the remains of the pilot (Randy) to rule out drugs or alcohol” as a contributing factor in the cause of the crash. There was no mention of carbon monoxide testing. Undeterred, I went back online and located the original report from the CAB, now housed at the National Archives in Atlanta. The report, entered into evidence as part of a class action lawsuit by the surviving family members to collect insurance money, (Stuyvesant Insurance Company v. Katha Loma Hughes et al., Civil Action No. 3547) mentioned “pathological examination of the pilot” but stopped there. I contacted the National Archives and began requesting copies of the trial; documents. Although I was able to purchase the full report and copies of photos taken by the CAB at the crash site back in 1963 I was not finding what I needed: proof that Randy was actually tested for CO poisoning. As the court documents took up the better part of a large box and I was never certain that the copies I was paying for would hold the information I sought, I made arrangements to visit Atlanta so that I could look through the box myself. Unfortunately, due to my job at the university, this trip would have to wait until October, three months away. In the meantime, I wrote a letter to Charlie Dick, Patsy’s widower, asking for his assistance. While purposefully vague in my reasoning, I told Charlie that I was trying to disprove the theory of “pilot error.”
“If my theory is correct,” I wrote in conclusion, “the official finding of “pilot error” may be laid to rest and radically change what happened that awful night in 1963. I hope that I’m right and can do a little to clear Randy’s name regarding the crash and, hopefully, give you the families more information.”
I then e-mailed the funeral home in Camden where the bodies were taken after the crash but, when I hadn’t heard from them, contacted Bill Kee at the Benton County, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce (Benton County is where Camden is located). Mr. Kee put me in touch with Rhonda Tippitt of the Benton County Library. Ms. Tippitt replied stating that “the funeral home does not have it (the autopsy report) and we did not have a hospital at that time. Everyone (here) seems to be of the same consensus that you would need to contact the state for copies of the autopsy report.”
I thanked Rhonda and e-mailed Lisa Robinson of the State Medical Examiner’s Office. Lisa’s response, while amusing, didn’t get me any closer to finding an autopsy report.
“In 1963 there was no Tennessee Medical Examiner…we didn’t get one until 1965 or 1966. Back in 1963 autopsies weren’t as routine as they are today…and I’m pretty sure that standard forensic panels of common drugs probably didn’t exist back then, either. How do they know that Mr. Hughes didn’t suffer a seizure or heart attack during that flight?”
I contacted the NTSB via e-mail, requesting any records of an autopsy but hit another dead end. “We don’t have those records, either,” was the response. Based on information I found online, which stated that the state of Pennsylvania might be in possession of the records of the Stuyvesant Insurance Company, I e-mailed the Supervisor of Reference Services at the Pennsylvania State Archives but was informed that this information was incorrect. Based on yet another false lead, I contacted the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, looking for the CAB records from 1963. “We have very few general aviation accident reports among our records,” they replied. “The collection consists of mostly commercial aircraft reports.”
A little discouraged at this point, I went back to original newspaper articles, looking for clues. The March 6, 1963 article on the crash on the front page of the Nashville Banner mentioned a Dr. A.T. Hix in Camden, who assisted in the recovery of the bodies. Excited, and a little irritated with myself for having overlooked this information, I re- contacted the Benton County library. If Dr. Hix was still living perhaps he could shed some light on what Randy was and was not tested for. I quickly received a reply, stating that first, the newspaper misspelled the doctor’s name…it was Hicks. Second, and most distressing, is that Dr. Hicks “passed away several years ago,” and that “nobody seems to know where his records ended up.” It was once again suggested that I check with the state medical examiner’s office. Armed with this new information…and the actual name of the doctor in question, I re-contacted Lisa at the state medical examiner’s office. As usual, her response was humorous and to the point.
“After performing functions for the state medical examiner for fifteen years,” she wrote, “one thing I learned is that doctors never turn their files over to anyone, especially the state, because the state has no way of keeping them.”
October finally arrived and Tim and I prepared to drive to Atlanta. I still hadn’t gotten a reply from Charlie Dick but hoped that my search of the records at the National Archives would yield some tangible results. We stopped for a couple of nights in Nashville and visited the Country Music Hall of Fame, where there was an exhibit on Patsy Cline. Among personal letters, photos and stage costumes were both the watch she was wearing at the time of her death and the clock from the plane, sad mementos of a life cut tragically short. I stood there for a very long time, staring at the watch, and wishing it could tell me what I wanted to hear. The drive from Nashville to Atlanta was beautiful, a stark contrast to the non-descript building that housed the National Archives a short drive from the city. In order to gain access to the collection, Tim and I were each issued “Researcher Identification” cards and let into a clean, brightly lit room where other researchers worked in silence. After a short wait, a simple cardboard box was rolled out on a library cart. Written on its side in cursive was the name “Patsy Cline.” As I carefully opened the box, the first item I found was a small, rectangular cardboard document envelope, held closed by an elastic band. My hands were honestly shaking as I opened it, curious as to what was inside, and I nearly dropped it when I realized what it contained. Inside, battered but still intact, was Randy’s “Pilot Flight Record and Log Book,” recovered from the wreckage in 1963. After spending far too much time looking over his entries (Randy failed to log the flight from Kansas City to Nashville), I moved on to the bulk of the contents of the box. Most of the materials I already had; the remainder were countless court documents regarding depositions, continuations, testimonies; there were copies of receipts, and handwritten eyewitness accounts. Though the “pathological examination of the pilot” was mentioned in the documents, there was no autopsy report. Truly frustrated for the first time, we returned home.
I wrote a letter to Ellis Nassour, via his publisher, inquiring about the autopsy. I e-mailed Reid Bell, who was at the crash site the day the plane was recovered. But another question had occurred to me: even if Randy had not been tested for CO poisoning back in 1963, would that mean an exhumation would be necessary to prove or disprove my hypothesis? The thought of convincing Randy’s widow, Kathy, that we needed to exhume her dead husband’s remains after fifty years didn’t sound feasible. And would CO still be detectable after fifty years? And did the CAB even test pilot fatalities for CO poisoning back in 1963?
A co-worker, upon learning of my quest, put me in contact with a colleague at another university, believing that her expertise in the field of forensic pathology could help. Dr. Zeibig was more than happy to help, but wrote “I can tell you that there would be no possibility that CO could be evaluated on an exhumation after long buried.”
As for the question of CO testing by the CAB, she put me in touch with the pathology department at the FAA in Oklahoma City. The gentleman there was very helpful but stated that CO testing of pilots “as routine” was not instituted until the late 1970’s.
To date, I have not received responses from Charlie Dick, Reid Bell or Ellis Nassour…maybe they just assume that I’m another crackpot looking for a macabre thrill.
What started as a hunch will apparently remain a hypothesis unless we can locate the engine of the plane and have it tested for cracks that might have allowed for CO to invade the cockpit of Randy’s plane. We do know that a family in Camden has a large portion of the fuselage, a woman in Texas or Oklahoma has one of the wings and that two brothers recently attempted to sell parts of the plane on E-bay.
It’s possible the engine is still out there somewhere.
What would all of this accomplish? For one thing, as I’ve said, it would change the original ruling of “pilot error” to mechanical error. For another, it might just prove that the poor souls on that 1963 flight were gone before the plane even crashed or, at the very least, asleep.
Maybe I’m wrong and maybe it happened just the way the CAB ruled fifty years ago; that Randy flew into bad weather against better judgment. Maybe they were all in a hurry to get home and disregarded the warnings given to them. Maybe, or maybe my hunch deserves a closer look by people in a better position to prove me right and to clear Randy of any wrongdoing.
Hopefully, this will be proven someday.


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  1. I have often wondered about Randy’s autopsy as well. It seems as though this accident was not well documented. As far as Patsy’s dresses go, are we sure those dresses were even on the plane with her? I know your trying to clear Randy’s name but does it really need to be cleared? I dont see him as a villian at all. Yes, he made a poor decision, he was inexperienced, and he should have waited out the storm, but he was also human. He made a mistake, it was an accident. And Patsy, whom I love wholeheartedly, as well as the other two passengers, all made the decision to go along with Randy despite the warnings of the owners of the airport in Dyersburg. I feel it was all just a series of unfortunate decisions. No one should be blamed, it was a terrible, unfortunate accident. You dont have to agree with me but I consider myself a woman of God and I believe, for reasons unbeknownst to this world, that it was just their time to go.

    Comment by caubinlpn — March 9, 2013 @ 5:59 pm

    • Hi, and thanks for your thoughtful comments. First, I’d like to clear up something: I don’t “blame” Randy Hughes for the accident. I was merely pointing out that the CAB listed the cause of the crash as “pilot error,” in essence placing the blame on Randy by doing so. I’m sure that you would agree that finding out the crash was caused by mechanical malfunction, while no less tragic, would be somehow better, at least for Kathy Hughes. According to the biographies she, too, has wrestled with the stories that she told Randy that “the weather had cleared in Nashville,” a story she vehemently denies.
      As for the dresses, yes, they were on the plane and taken from the crash site along with Randy’s money bag. I can only assume that the famous white dress ended up in somebody’s wedding that spring. Maybe a search of Benton County wedding photos from 1963 would finally locate it and the other two dresses.
      Finally, whether it was “their time to go” or not, it was still a tragedy. I don’t personally believe that God sits in Heaven and metes out fate that way, either. Things happen and sometimes those things are tragedies mourned by an entire music industry

      Comment by curtischristophercomer — March 10, 2013 @ 3:55 pm

      • I believe the affair “rumors” are true.. Patsy deserved a man who loved her, took care of her and did not abuse her. Ask Randy himself who he thinks his real dad is and Patsy’s family agreed.. And yes, Charlie did beat the sh!t out of her, so bad even when she was pregnant with Randy that she almost lost the baby. I was told he left her outside, she crawled to the car and laid on the horn until the neighbors came to her aid in the middle of the night. I believe she and Randy were more than business partners and I think it’s a good thing.

        Comment by Nunya — December 8, 2015 @ 6:44 pm

  2. I have recently began reading about this tragedy. I guess after seeing Jan Howard talk about it on an old TNN show that’s been rerunning recently. Before that, I never had thought too much about it. Once you start to learn the circumstances and see the few black-and-white photos online of the crash scene–well, I was pretty quickly drawn into the whole story. Maybe haunted by it is a better description. You’re almost taken aback sometimes that something so horrific could have actually happened to those people, those icons. But indeed it did. I must disagree however with the “don’t blame Randy Hughes” sentiment. It’s really no different from someone with insufficient driver’s training/experience who recklessly gets behind the wheel and kills three innocent people. If Randy isn’t to blame, then I don’t know who is (barring some eventual finding of an aircraft malfunction). I even must say, I felt a little put off when I saw Kathy being interviewed. The woman still acts as if her husband was this saint who did nothing wrong and, “Randy just did everything full-force, full-speed.” …Except he ran full-force and never learned how to correctly read airplane instruments, Kathy. Therefore he should never have been in that seat with three lives in his hands, besides his own. If I were Julie, Randy, Jean, Hawkshaw’s kids, Copas’ other kids, etc, I’m afraid I’d have some deep resentment against Randy for that. I don’t think I’ll ever understand why Hawkshaw or Patsy risked their families and got on that plane. Unless the rumors are true that Randy was her lover, I can’t really imagine a reason why Patsy felt so obligated to stroke his ego that way. What a horrendously tragic (and possibly self-centered) split-second decision that was on her part. Oh well. Those official crash scene photos from the CAB must have been interesting. Anything new in them you could tell us about?

    Comment by matty b — September 11, 2013 @ 2:56 pm

    • Hi, and thanks for your comments. First, let me say that, yes, Randy was—obviously—“at fault” for the crash; he was inexperienced, should not have been carrying passengers without a trainer, and, by all accounts, a rash decision maker. But, as I said in my blog, there is the possibility of mechanical malfunction which, if proven, would make Randy less “at fault.” The other thing you mentioned was whether or not Copas, Hawkshaw and Patsy made a bad decision to fly with Randy. I would have to disagree with that assumption; they all trusted Randy and, when all is said and done, we have to remember that they flew to Kansas City to help a family in need. As far as the rumors about Patsy and Randy having an affair, well, that’s all they are. The only people who would know definitively died in 1963 but I don’t think it was true. Randy was a happily married man and nobody can disagree that Patsy loved Charlie, despite what’s been written for senstaionalism or depicted in movies. Of course, this is only my opinion. Was patsy and Charlie’s marriage sometimes rocky? Of course, but—speaking as someone who’s been in a relationship for 21 years—all relationships have their issues, and I’m sure they were no different.
      Finally, you asked about the CAB photos. Yes, they were interesting and sad to look at but, no, nothing out of the ordinary. Thanks again for your thoughts.

      Comment by curtischristophercomer — September 11, 2013 @ 5:33 pm

  3. Google this “Piper PA-24 carbon monoxide” and look at the acident records and cause of crashes for this aircraft, I think you will be surprised at what you learn.

    Comment by Jerry Magnuson — October 5, 2013 @ 1:33 am

  4. Curtis,
    Excellent article and interesting new hypothesis of the events that unfolded on March 5, 1963. I have often wondered myself if there might be another contributing factor to this crash. Unfortunately due to different standard operating procedures at the time (documentation, testing, etc) as your article points out, we may never know. Have there been any updates to your findings since you wrote this blog entry? I wish you luck on your research endeavors and I will be interested to see what else you may find related to this incident.

    Comment by Amy — October 6, 2013 @ 3:06 pm

    • Hi, Amy, and thanks for your comments. Unfortunately, no, I haven’t been able to move forward and I may never be able to “prove” my hunch. I do plan on going back to Nashville soon to look through archives but, without the engine of the plane (or the help of surviving eyewitnesses) may never get the info I need. I will keep you posted.

      Comment by curtischristophercomer — October 7, 2013 @ 2:47 pm

  5. Interesting article, Curtis–you’ve really done a lot of footwork on this! However, I seriously doubt you’ll find that carbon monoxide had anything to do with this accident. If CO had been getting into the cabin, it seems probable that Hughes and his passengers would have encountered a problem much earlier in the trip. The article you cited, “This Should Not Happen to You,” notes that CO-related accidents are quite rare. They’re especially rare when compared to those caused by spatial disorientation affecting non-instrument-rated pilots in both VFR and IFR weather conditions–this is perhaps the leading killer in general aviation. The fact that this accident happened in such terrible weather to a VFR-only pilot like Randy Hughes, who had only 160 hours, is difficult to ignore.

    If your hypothesis had been based on widespread CO-related incidents specifically affecting the Piper Comanche, there’d be a real reason to look into this further. But from the looking around I’ve been doing, it doesn’t seem to happen disproportionately on any single aircraft type. Still, it is, or should be, a concern to private pilots. Proper maintenance must be done on any airplane.

    I’m very interested in hearing about any further info you get on this!

    Comment by SF Walker — October 26, 2013 @ 10:34 pm

    • Hi, and thanks for your thoughts. Yes, I realize that this is what is referred to as a “long shot” and that, in all probability, the crash was as they determined…pilot error. However, given the fact that CO poisoning in planes happens at all and the fact that this wasn’t even considered as a possibility in the 1963 crash makes me want to press on. I think I can confidently say that, if I prove that CO poisoning DID contribute to the crash, lots of people will not only want to know this but will be happy to learn that this was, in fact, the case. I know that I may never be able to prove or disprove this but I feel a need to press forward. I will most definitely keep you posted.

      Comment by curtischristophercomer — October 28, 2013 @ 3:00 pm

  6. Interesting theory!

    Comment by jo — January 11, 2014 @ 3:11 pm

    • That’s all it is at this point…a theory. I may never know but will post any findings as soon as I have them! Thanks for reading!

      Comment by curtischristophercomer — January 13, 2014 @ 4:13 pm

  7. If what has been said about the condition of the bodies after the crash is true then none of them were embalmed.That basically means that they, I’m sorry this is morbid,were kept ?refrigerated until burial. From what I understand Patsy and Randy were in worse shape than the other two. However Carbon Monoxide levels can beddetected in hair strands in some cases. Didn’t Patsys hair brush and other stuff survive the crash?

    Comment by Robbie — March 26, 2014 @ 12:57 am

    • Hi, and thanks for reading what may be a “wild goose chase!” Yes, from what we know, all aboard were horribly dismembered so the story of “an autopsy being done on the body of the pilot” was probably an overstatement of what was actually done. As far as the story of Patsy’s hair clinging to her brush goes, that was probably true. But what happened to the hair? It seems morbid that it would be left on the brush and put on display in a museum. If somebody kept it, though, perhaps some clues could be gained by testing a strand. Unfortunately, nobody I wrote to (and would be in the best position to help)seems interested in helping. I understand the pain the crash caused back in 1963, particularly for the families, but my only wish is to prove or disprove my theory and, hopefully, lay some myths surrounding the crash to rest.

      Comment by curtischristophercomer — March 26, 2014 @ 3:28 pm

  8. I worked on the house of a retired commercial pilot around 1983, like myself he was a country music fan, and whilst we chatted the subject of Patsy Cline’s crash cropped up. He’d flown five different Piper Comanche aeroplanes, one of which he owned, both here in the UK and Europe. TWO of the five planes had issues with cracked exhaust manifolds, On the first occasion he became aware of a problem upon smelling fumes in the cockpit shortly after takeoff. He performed a ‘ go around ‘ and returned to the runway without incident. The problem was diagnosed and a new manifold fitted. As he owned a Comanche of his own he naturally had it inspected. A crack was present in exactly the same place on the manifold. Since he’d had absolutely no indication of his personal plane having a problem, he said he considered himself very fortunate to be alive. He’d effectively been flying a death trap, and had only been alerted to the fact by pure chance! He’d come to exactly the same conclusions you have drawn here, and it’s important to remember that this was an experienced pilot with decades of aviation experience to draw on. I think Randy Hughes could well have been wrongly blamed for the deaths of 3 people due to circumstances beyond his control. There could well be grounds for reviewing the damning verdict of pilot error levelled at him!
    I’ll be reading your progress with interest!

    Comment by Gary Edgecombe — April 30, 2014 @ 1:10 pm

    • Thanks for reading, Gary! And nice to hear some sort of validation…I’m not much further along, unfortunately, as the engine (and the person “helping” me look for it) seems to have vanished. Hopefully, my next trip to Nashville will provide some more clues. I’ll keep you posted.

      Comment by curtischristophercomer — April 30, 2014 @ 1:49 pm

      • Please do…the gentleman i referred to is sadly no longer with us, a great shame as he would doubtless have enjoyed speaking to you in person. Best wishes On 30 Apr 2014 14:49, “Curtischristophercomer’s Blog” wrote:

        > curtischristophercomer commented: “Thanks for reading, Gary! And nice > to hear some sort of validation…I’m not much further along, > unfortunately, as the engine (and the person “helping” me look for it) > seems to have vanished. Hopefully, my next trip to Nashville will provide > some more clu”

        Comment by Gary Edgecombe — April 30, 2014 @ 1:53 pm

  9. The exhaust manifolds of the airplane, if cracked, could have allowed CO to enter the cabin. However, since the airplane had flown several flights that same day, there is no reason to believe the cause was a cracked manifold. This flight segment only lasted eighteen minutes.

    There’s no possibility the manifolds would have survived the crash intact. Likely they would have been smashed and broken into pieces. Exhaust manifolds of this era did not have serial numbers. There would be no way to trace a manifold to an engine serial number.

    The airplane would have had two logbooks, one for the Airframe and one for the Powerplant. Were these examined? Where are they now? The engine logbook would contain maintenance and repair information from the date the engine was installed on this airplane and put into service. In many instances, airplanes (the airframe) do not have the same engine installed throughout their service life. Engines are frequently exchanged at overhaul intervals, new engines are sometimes installed, just like with an automobile. However, airplanes are required to have current and separate logbooks for both the airframe and the power plant.

    You mentioned Randy’s pilot logbook was found but the flight from Kansas City to Nashville was not entered. Of course, not. Pilots make logbook entries after, not before, flights are made. I’m sure you realize that a pilot logbook, an airplane logbook and a power plant logbook are completely separate logbooks.

    Likely, the engine was salvaged, but little, if any, would have been usable. The plane hit the ground at a high speed and dug a crater several feet deep. Most likely, the motor was at the bottom of that crater. The engine was probably disassembled by a CAB-approved inspector who found no indication of an engine failure. The remaining salvage after the inspection could have gone into a scrap pile, returned to an Insurance company or scavenged for parts and/or souvenirs. No telling. However, since there was a lawsuit filed, there may be a court record existing that would show the whereabouts of the salvage, at that time.

    A hair sample would not show any indication of CO poisoning in the last seconds of life. If the pilot and passengers succumbed to CO poisoning a hairbrush sample would be useless to determine whether CO had been in the airplane for eighteen minutes.

    The overwhelming evidence of this tragic crash is that the pilot flew into IMC (instrument meteorological conditions) without holding an IFR (instrument flight rules) rating. Spatial disorientation and vertigo were the cause of the crash. The pilot had received a weather briefing and had been advised by an FSS (flight service station) advisor that he would most likely encounter IMC. Also, the airport manager had expressed similar concerns to the pilot, yet he proceeded with the flight against professional advice. This was, and is, the leading cause of general aviation accidents, which is quite unfortunate because they are 100% preventable by simply not flying into weather.

    Comment by Mike Thomas — June 4, 2014 @ 11:46 pm

    • Hi, Mike, and thanks for your comments. First, let me say that I agree with you on a number of points, not the least of which is that the crash was probably the cause of pilot error. Yes, I know that the engine was probably smashed to bits (including those manifolds). Yes, I realize that there are multiple log books for a plane, and yes, I understand why Randy hadn’t logged the Kansas City flight: I only mentioned that as an interesting aside.
      All that said, if the manifold was completely destroyed, then there is no way the CAB would have been able to determine whether there was a leak or not (which we know they weren’t even looking at back in 1963, anyway). And, yes, the plane was only in the air for 18-20 minutes before the crash, but there have been documented crashes (that were later determined to have been caused by CO poisoning) and those planes were in the air for the same amount of time. Would it be safe to venture that all aboard Randy’s plane were being slowly poisoned for the duration of the flight from Kansas City? Or maybe, given the “puddle-jumping” fashion of the flight that day, hairline cracks were made worse by fighting the bad weather and high winds? It’s all conjecture, I realize, but one (in my mind) worth pursuing.
      Maybe I’m right and maybe I’m wrong but I think the weight of the tragic event makes a thorough reevaluation of the crash important…not just to history but for the families involved.
      Finally, you mention the hairbrush. That theory was floated by another reader. It’s interesting but, as I pointed out in an earlier post, I have already been notified by one of the country’s leading forensic pathologists that CO will not remain detectable after fifty years, so it seems to be a moot point.
      Thanks again for your thoughts.

      Comment by curtischristophercomer — June 5, 2014 @ 4:43 pm

      • Well, one thing we certainly know, is that we’ll never know what happened that evening so long ago.

        You’ve raised an interesting and overlooked possibility about CO poisoning. It’s possible. I believe CO remains in the body for around 24 hours, or so, and if there was an exhaust manifold leak into the heater system, CO would have begun building in the pilot (and passengers) bloodstream when the flight departed KC. With four people aboard, one person might begin to exhibit CO poisoning systems before the others did. If it wasn’t the pilot who succumbed first, a pilot might call a Mayday and request an ambulance at the nearest airport.

        It’s highly improbable that turbulence would be a factor in cracking an exhaust manifold.

        The engine/aircraft logbooks are usually not carried aboard the airplane. It would be interesting if there had been a recent repair to the manifolds or any engine repair that might have caused the manifolds to have been removed.

        The FAA still shows the airplane registered (that’s odd) to the Randy Hughes Agency at 4413 Gra Mar Dr, Nashville, TN 37200. The FAA registry shows the last update was January 13, 1977 (very strange). The airplane was a single engine Piper Comanche, manufactured in 1960, model PA-24-250, serial number 24-2144.

        It would be interesting to research whether the FAA had ever issued an Airworthiness Directive, Advisory, or Inspection order of any kind for the PA-24-250 for the possibility of CO leaking into the cabin. Most any FAA licensed mechanic (A&P IA) would be able to easily research this because there are still many PA-24-250’s still flying today. I believe the engine on this airplane was built by Lycoming.

        Comment by Mike Thomad — June 5, 2014 @ 11:36 pm

      • Mike,
        A couple more comments: I’m not saying that turbulence would have caused the cracks, per se. Rather, that a plane struggling to fly in turbulent weather would put extra strain on the engine maybe making any existing structural damage to the engine worse.
        And Patsy was observed to have been suffering from the flu. My research has shown that CO poisoning can look a lot like the symptoms of the flu. Did she have the flu or was she suffering from CO poisoning? It’s highly likely that she was suffering the flu or, at the very least, a cold. It was March, after all, and , by all accounts, very cold. There’s no way to prove this either way.
        Interestingly, I have some records of repairs done on Randy’s plane…I’ll go back over those this weekend to see if I missed anything. And, yes, the FAA has since posted advisories on the Piper Comanche regarding the risk of CO poisoning. In fact, it is now suggested that CO monitors be installed in the aircraft to warn pilots of possible leaks.
        And, yes, you are correct: the engine was built by Lycoming in Lycoming, Pennsylvania.

        Comment by curtischristophercomer — June 6, 2014 @ 2:36 pm

  10. Agree with others here that it’s an interesting theory though very unlikely, and thanks for bringing it up.

    But don’t forget that the plane was only three years old at the time of the crash, and the other ones with reported CO issues had apparently been flying for decades before the problems appeared.

    Even if the CO theory is a possibility, it is still a fact, not a “maybe” that “Randy flew into bad weather against better judgment” and that “they were all in a hurry to get home and disregarded the warnings given to them”. In the scenario of a newbie pilot, (160 hours VFR !!) flying into such conditions the crash would have been the likely outcome in any case, CO or no CO.

    Perhaps immaterial to the issue, but you have a couple of facts wrong at the beginning of the article: “serial number N7000P” – you are mixing serial number with registration number. The “propellers” of the plane, in plural, are mentioned a couple of times when it was in fact a single-engine plane and would only have had one.

    Comment by Sandstorm — June 22, 2014 @ 11:12 pm

    • Thanks for your thoughts and thanks for pointing out my mistakes. I was using the word “propellers” when I should have said “propeller”, yes, or when describing the two blades of the propeller. As for confusing serial number with registration number, well, simple mistake.
      Yes, as I’ve said many times in the past, I know that it’s completely possible that this was simple pilot error. No argument here. But, what I don’t understand, is a seemingly long line of people disinterested in the POSSIBILITY of CO poisoning being the cause of the crash.
      I was just in Nashville doing some research and, while I didn’t find what I was looking for on this particular trip, may have located Randy’s autopsy report. I’ll have to get back to you on that.
      Thanks again for your thoughts.

      Comment by curtischristophercomer — June 23, 2014 @ 2:37 pm

      • Curtis – I admire your passion! No doubt this mystery will remain unsolved and subject to endless speculation, as is often the case with many crashes: airplane, cars, trains, ships, etc. Unless there is some future breakthrough in technology to determine CO levels, I’m afraid the case will remain closed.

        Comment by Mike Thomas — June 23, 2014 @ 6:13 pm

      • Thanks, Mike. I totally agree that, whether or not my theory is correct, it may never be proven either way. I have, however, been “blessed” (or cursed, depending on your point of view) with a subborn tenacity. Let’s hope for that breakthrough and for me to find something useful…

        Comment by curtischristophercomer — June 23, 2014 @ 6:34 pm

  11. The age of the aircraft, ANY aircraft…has little or no bearing on the the type of manifold damage we are considering MIGHT have occurred back in 1963. People confuse metal fatigue failures (like the Comet debaclé) with fractures brought about by defects in cast metals, which are always brittle. Whilst metal fatigue in a stringer, spar or the hull of an aircraft can take months…or even years to show up, it’s not the case with a cast item such as an exhaust manifold. It can be fractured by heat or vibration for sure, but an incorrectly torqued bolt on installation can crack cast iron like an egg…i’ve done it myself rebuilding a Rover V8 engine intended for my newly restored 3.5 ltr P5B. Half the manifold and the downpipe parted company with the block before i’d clocked up 50 miles! I’d no idea of the damage until the exhaust bisected! The theory is plausable…but something occurred to me since my last post, carbon monoxide poisoning causes the skin to turn cherry red. No mention was made of this in any police or autopsy report as far as i know. It’s a well known phenomenon in suicide cases, and surely wouldn’t have been overlooked. Having debunked my own theories i shall continue to read further comments here with interest!

    Comment by gary — June 24, 2014 @ 12:09 am

    • Hi, Gary…welcome back and thanks for your input. It’s nice to have the issue of metal fatigue addressed by somebody who knows what he’s talking about. Sadly, this isn’t me but I’m slowly learning. You bring up a good point, and one that had not escaped me. Namely, the discoloration of skin caused by CO poisoning. For over a year now I’ve been trying to get in touch with a gentleman in Camden who was there the morning of March 6th, 1963. That was one of the questions I was hoping to ask him: did the skin look unusual? Although, considering the fact that the bodies were badly dismembered, would anyone have noticed or would it even have been obvious? This…in the absence of a proper autopsy (that tested for CO poisoning) or the plane’s engine…could be our smoking gun. Although it’s highly unlikely to happen, it would be great if someone reading this would contact me and say “I was there…”
      I’m plugging ahead with the information I found regarding a possible autopsy report and will keep you posted.

      Comment by curtischristophercomer — June 24, 2014 @ 2:26 pm

      • The largest part of Patsy Cline recovered was (gruesomely) her right arm, shoulders and the back of her head. (you might not want the above sentence posted!) The first officer on scene radioed that he couldn’t establish the number of victims as “they’re all in pieces.”
        Horrible as it is to think about, i’d have thought enough tissue remained to display lividity at autopsy…and PROBABLY at the scene. Obviously being a Limey i’m not familiar with US law, but can you access the police report from the attending officer? Just a thought! Over here a lot of official files enter the public domain after 30, 50, 75 years, depending on what they are of course. Might that not be an avenue to explore? The fact there was no fire on impact would leave a lot for a TRAINED eye to record.

        Comment by gary — June 24, 2014 @ 8:52 pm

      • Gary, you are completely correct on all of the issues you bring up. I wonder, given the horrible condition of the bodies, whether the discoloration (if there was any) was considered “normal” for what they were seeing. I’ve certainly never seen a dismembered body (thankfully) so wouldn’t know what the skin would look like even if I did. Then again, I’m not a trained medical examiner. It’s too bad that Dr. Hix has passed away…I’d love to have a chat with him. And it’s even worse that his records have vanished.
        Your idea about searching the archives of the highway patrol is a good one (sometimes the thing we’re looking for is right in front of us!). I just did a quick search online but learned that very little can be accessed in that way. Looks like another road trip to Nashville is in the offing…

        Comment by curtischristophercomer — June 25, 2014 @ 3:19 pm

      • If you are unable to access the police records, how about the attending officers? He/they would be in their 80’s or 90’s by now i’ll grant you..but it’s quite possible they’ve not shuffled off this mortal coil! 🙂
        Even if they have passed on, the Patsy Cline air crash would have been a major career event (albeit a terrible one) …and something they might well have discussed or related to younger family members. Just a thought!
        A decade ago i managed to locate the highway patrolman who attended the fatal car crash of a young English actress who was killed over there in 1961, i was lucky for sure, but it CAN be done! I ended up with a first hand account i couldn’t have obtained from any official records.
        Let’s hope you have similar good fortune!

        Comment by gary — June 25, 2014 @ 8:44 pm

      • All great ideas, Gary! In fact, you’ve given me a thought: I could place an ad in a Camden paper asking to meet with anyone there who might have been present at the crash site in 1963 in order to get a first-hand account of their recollections. (Maybe the gentleman there who failed to answer my letter or calls would even come out…it could happen!) It would mean another trip to Camden but could be well worth it. Plus, it would give me an opportunity to return to a restaurant there that served the best fried catfish I’ve ever had!
        Thanks again and keep those ideas coming!

        Comment by curtischristophercomer — June 26, 2014 @ 8:25 pm

      • I read someone says you FAA goofed on the aircraft’s records…what about the NTSB?
        Can you access their files, or request data?
        Again, being English i wouldn’t know, but an air crash of this magnitude created a LOT of paperwork, didn’t it? Those files can’t have been shredded or deleted, they must exist with someone, somewhere. It’s a question of knowing where to start looking, and that takes training. Might i suggest a good investigative journalist? Not to do the work…but to give you a few pointers as to where to start! It’s not what you know…but WHO you know, and a good print journalist will know a lot of people, and be aware of a lot of databases you and i won’t have heard of.

        Comment by gary — June 26, 2014 @ 8:53 pm

      • It’s funny that you mention the NTSB…out of everyone I’ve contacted thus far, they were probably the LEAST helpful. The “in-depth” response I got from them was “We don’t have these records either.” When I asked if they had any thoughts as to where they might have ended up the (again) less than encouraging reply was simply “No thoughts.” Period.
        I do have some journalist friends (two, in fact) and this might be a good idea.

        Comment by curtischristophercomer — June 26, 2014 @ 9:11 pm

      • Hmm… odd! I bought a car off a company that sounded a lot like that!
        If i get any more ‘lightbulb’ moments i’ll give you a ping, I only wish i could supply that magic shovel to help you with your digging!
        I’ll monitor your site with interest, if i get any inspiration i’ll ping you at once.
        Good luck buddy…keep in touch!

        Comment by gary — June 26, 2014 @ 9:19 pm

      • Thanks, as always! I’ll post any new developments as soon as they come!

        Comment by curtischristophercomer — June 27, 2014 @ 2:48 pm

  12. If this helps you any at all there were witnesses to the crash. One was an experienced pilot by the name of S.C. Ward. On that day he was in his office when he heard a low flying plane pass over his building. It was low enough that it alarmed him and he went outside to see what was going on. He estimated the plane was flying no more than 300 feet above ground and he assumed the pilot was lost and was trying to orientate himself by the lights of Camden. When he got outside and was looking for the plane he suddenly heard the engine noise increase. A moment after that the engine stalled and he saw the plane descend at a 45% angle, disappear from his view and was followed by the sound of a dull crash. He immediately notified THP (Tennessee Highway Patrol) and the search began, continuing until the early morning when the wreck was located.

    His statement is most crucial as it tells you really what happened the last moments of the planes flight. After Mr. Hughes had lost his visual orientation, he put the plane into right hand diving turn which looped the plane and took him over Mr. Ward’s office building.
    (Everyone on the plane would have known that they were lost at some point here.) Whether Mr. Hughes was panicking, too engrossed into finding his visual or passenger noise was distracting him is unknown, but it is apparent that he did not look at his instruments. If he had he would have known the plane was in a descent. When he caught visual he made a fatal error and applied power (trying to bring the nose up) this stalled the plane and sent it into a nose dive. At that point, unquestionably, everyone on that plane knew they were going down. Fortunately, the plane was low enough that it was over quickly and they died instantly.

    So there is no possibly way it could have been CO poisoning since Mr. Ward and other witnesses made it clear the pilot was still reacting up to the point where he stalled the engines.

    One last thing off this subject. Patsy’s watch is different than that of the plane’s time.The plane’s time would have been accurate. Patsy was, as you know, notorious for never being late. She hated it. It was a common thing back in those days for people such as her to set watches/clocks ahead a few minutes. My family did the same thing. May sound odd to people today but it did the trick back then, we were never late for anything. My father was the responsible culprit as that habit was exclusive to his side of the family. If you do ever hear from Mr. Dick, you can ask him if she did this as well. I bet he says her watches were always a few minutes ahead of time.

    Comment by Elle Pearson (@NakwetsiE) — July 9, 2014 @ 6:24 am

  13. An interesting post. I would point out, though, that I found a few inconsistencies or misunderstandings in what you wrote. By the way, I am a private pilot and a lawyer. It is not uncommon for a pilot to log flights after the flight is completed so I am not surprised the pilot had not logged this flight from Kansas City.

    At the top of your post, you mention that the plane would have hit the ground only 2 seconds after hitting the top of the tree. This is unlikely. A plane diving at 280 mph, covers 410 feet per second. I saw another site which mentioned an eye witness who saw the plane diving at an estimated 45 degree angle prior to crashing. Given that information, if the trees were average height (75 feet tall) then the ground impact would have occurred only 1/4 of a second after hitting the tree top. They probably had no time to realize they were in serious danger before they impacted the ground.

    You stated “Randy Hughes was not an “instrument rated pilot,” meaning he could not tell the position of the plane without visual contact with the ground,”… This is somewhat inaccurate.

    Randy may have been able to ascertain the orientation of the plane from the instruments to some extent, but lacking appropriate training, he was unable to do it for very long. He probably inadvertently entered instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) where he lost sight of the ground, and hence the control of the plane. Continuing a visual flight into IMC continues to be a significant cause of airplane crashes even today.

    An instrument rated pilot, has received the training required to be able to operate legally in IMC when there are no outside visual cues – inside a cloud for instance. If you are in IMC, then the instrument flight rules (IFR) require you to have filed a flight plan and be in communication with air traffic control (ATC), which is tasked with providing you a block of air space which moves along with you as you head to you destination from which all other planes are kept clear of. That is why it is safe.

    Randy was on a flight which should have been under the Visual Flight Rules (VFR). The rules regarding visibility are complicated, and I have not tried to determine if they were any different then than they are now, so this is just for reference to give you an idea of what was probably required legally: remain clear of clouds, at the least and 500 feet above cities and towns. So if the clouds were only 500 feet above ground level, and he passed over any communities, the flight was not legal. What he was doing is called “scud running” by pilots, and it is dangerous. He was trying to squeeze between the overcast above and the ground below – a very poor decision. Sometimes a pilot gets away with it. Sometimes they don’t and a tragedy ensues.

    The CAB comment regarding the engine “developing substantial power” probably only indicated that the engine was working properly at the time of the crash. In other words, it was providing sufficient power to keep the plane airborne. This is not an indication regarding what the pilot thought was happening immediately prior to the crash, whether it was climbing.

    Comment by C Paige Gabhart — November 12, 2014 @ 11:39 pm

    • Thanks for your thoughts. I really appreciate it when pilots share their experiences; it makes the tragedy of 1963 “real,” for lack of a better word. One thing I’d like to say along those lines is that everything I’ve written (with the exception of the CO poisoning theory) is information I’ve taken from the CAB report and the court records, stored in Atlanta. Is the “two second” theory incorrect? Possibly, but I’m only quoting what I’ve read. The same is true of my statement that Randy Hughes was not an instrument rated pilot.

      Comment by curtischristophercomer — November 13, 2014 @ 9:13 pm

  14. Your entire statement is not entirely correct. You do not know if the PA-24 was a 180 or 250. If it was a 180, it was probably over gross. Also you state that it’s props ” plural ” struck the trees. The PA-24 is a single engine airplane, hence ” one ” prop. It is a VERY safe airplane. I do wish that people that do not know about aircraft would stop making judgment calls. Thank you .

    Comment by Mike — May 4, 2015 @ 12:18 am

    • No, Mike, you are correct: the way in which I used the word “propellers” was not entirely correct. I used “propellers” when I clearly meant to say “propeller” and “blades” (which are what separated upon contact with the tree). But I promise not to be an ass about grammar if you can, too.
      The real issue, and it’s one that I have found to be quite hard to comprehend, is the inability of most people to entertain the notion that CO poisoning *could have* played a role in the crash. You accuse me of making a judgement call, which I clearly did not. Mine is a question. And I support the question by citing a clear example of a similar crash in the same model plane in the UK, yet you state that the plane is safe, completely unwilling to challenge 50 year old findings that may well be inaccurate. This baffles me. If we are willing to entertain the idea that CO poisoning *might have* caused the crash that killed Patsy Cline,like the later crash in the UK, then my thoughts deserve more attention than a mere dismissal.

      Comment by curtischristophercomer — May 4, 2015 @ 2:39 pm

  15. Just curious to know sir if you have found any new information regarding your investigation into the plane crash? I am a licensed funeral director. I’m sure you have already done this, but have you checked with the State of Tennessee Department of Vital Records in regard to Randy Hughes Death Certificate? It would have to list a cause of death on it. And, most states have a field on the death certificate that ask if an autopsy was performed. It would say yes or no. The autopsy report would depend on who did the autopsy and who ordered it. If there wasn’t a medical examiner or coroner involved from the county in which the accident occurred, then the likelihood of an autopsy being conducted is low. I will say, based on my experience as a funeral director, that victims of such an accident that have trauma similar to the victims of the March 5, 1963 crash are usually not embalmed, and the remains are placed in a body bag and if final disposition is burial, the body bag is placed in a casket, most of the time with some preservative chemicals topically placed on the remains. The casket is then sealed. Even with trauma similar to these victims, autopsies are possible, however post mortem examination might be limited due to the level of destruction of the body. Anyway, I’m sure all this has been considered but in case it hasn’t I thought I’d throw in my two cents.

    Comment by dbfd — August 13, 2015 @ 3:04 am

    • Hi, and I apologize for the slow reply! In answer to your question, no, I have found no new information and am afraid it will stay this way until somebody discovers some long-lost document. I agree with your opinion that no autopsy was performed and believe that any mention of autopsy was a horrible exaggeration at the least.

      Comment by curtischristophercomer — June 29, 2016 @ 3:24 pm

      • I doubt any autopsy of those poor people would have helped much. All the victims were, as reported by the patrolman who was first on the scene, as being ‘in pieces’. The largest part of Ms Cline recovered was her right arm, right shoulder, and the back portion of her head! A definitive cause of death would be speculation at best. Such a tragic waste of life! On 29 Jun 2016 16:24, “Curtischristophercomers Blog” wrote:

        > curtischristophercomer commented: “Hi, and I apologize for the slow reply! > In answer to your question, no, I have found no new information and am > afraid it will stay this way until somebody discovers some long-lost > document. I agree with your opinion that no autopsy was performed and belie” >

        Comment by Gary Edgecombe — June 29, 2016 @ 3:36 pm

      • I’m in complete agreement. Thanks, Gary!

        Comment by curtischristophercomer — June 29, 2016 @ 4:48 pm

  16. The costume’s you mentioned that are in your collection…. are these actual Patsy dresses? Replicas? From productions of the play “Always…Patsy Cline”? Very interested in hearing about these! 🙂 MM

    Comment by phillipphiles — June 29, 2016 @ 1:34 am

    • It’s actually sillier than that. The dresses are in a way replicas but are more accurately described as vintage lookalikes mostly purchased on e-bay. I’ve had family members convinced that they’re looking at a real dress once owned by Patsy Cline (I wish!).

      Comment by curtischristophercomer — June 29, 2016 @ 3:19 pm

  17. This is so fascinating. Thank you for chasing down every lead possible. I hope you’re right – I hope they were all asleep or unaware prior to the crash. I wonder if we’ll ever know for sure

    Comment by Ashley — May 7, 2017 @ 6:20 am

  18. Hi Buddy!
    I just thought I’d check in and inquire about your progress, (if any) regarding Patsy’s plane crash. It’s been quite a while since anything was posted, I hope you’ve not given up! ☺️
    My best wishes to you!

    Comment by Gary Edgecombe — May 7, 2017 @ 12:55 pm

    • Hi, Gary. Unfortunately, yes, I think I have to step back. Nobody involved (including Charlie, who has since passed away) seemed interested in helping so I was unable to move forward. Maybe somebody else can shake something loose in the future. I have to concede defeat.

      Comment by curtischristophercomer — May 15, 2017 @ 5:06 pm

  19. Wow! I just read this and it is a very tangible hypothesis. So many questions to be answered and deserve to be answered. I also watched the HBO movie “Sweet Dreams” and for a few years took the Hollywood version as gospel truth. But i am also an obsessive musician. I REALLY started digging deep into Patys career and listening to her vocal style, her tone, the unique way she could add the yodel into her voice, just the sure magic she possessed when she was singing. A voice that could tear your heart out. And as i dug, i found out some truths about the crash. No explosion, no cliff sides, no smoke. The plane wasn’t even found until the next morning.
    I think your idea of CO poisoning is as good as ‘pilot error’. I do hope you continue this quest for answers and a solid piece of evidence presents itself. I hope you haven’t given up. The death of all aboard that aircraft shattered lives and broke hearts all over. It isn’t the “Patsy Cline plane crash”. Its the country music tragedy plane crash of 1963.

    Comment by Greg Tatum — July 6, 2017 @ 7:53 am

    • Hey, Greg, and thanks for your thoughts. And you are right about the impact of that crash so long ago: four distinct lives were lost that night. I know Patsy would agree.

      Comment by curtischristophercomer — July 6, 2017 @ 5:39 pm

      • Another piece of trivia for you, did you know that the flying instructor who taught Randy Hughes to fly also instructed country singing legend Jim Reeves? Neither man was instrument rated, and both lost their lives in similar circumstances, being overwhelmed by adverse weather conditions, and spacial disorientation.

        Comment by Gary Edgecombe — July 6, 2017 @ 6:33 pm

  20. I ran across your blog and your theory that CO may have been a contributing factor in the 1963 Camden PA-24 Crash. This may be a longshot but a Paris Tennessee Tv station interviewed a man by the name of Jerry Phifer. Jerry was an 18 year old dispatcher that worked for the Benton County? Sheriff Dept in 1963. In the interview he was riding with a TN Highway Patrolman on the night/next day of the crash. In the interview he claims to have been one of the first persons to discover/research the crash site. He had collected some artifacts related to the crash. He claimed he had a piece of the planes strut and there was some flesh attach to the piece of that airplane. A long shot but maybe you could arrange for that strut to be tested? Here is the link to the youtube video_

    Comment by Rusty Russell — June 19, 2018 @ 8:05 am

  21. I stumbled across this after starting my search for answers as well. After reading through this entire blog, I couldn`t help but wonder now that so much time has passed, and even though most are now gone, maybe now a family member would open up ? Maybe now whoever has control over any records regarding the accident or the new owner of the funeral homes would speak now ?

    Comment by Terri Palmer Koch — November 10, 2018 @ 12:58 am

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About author

Curtis Christopher Comer’s short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies, including Ultimate Gay Erotica, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008; Best Gay Love Stories, 2005, 2006, 2007; Dorm Porn I and II; My First Time, Volume Five; Fast Balls, Cruise Lines, Treasure Trails, and Starf*cker. He co-authored the novel Wonderland and writes a column for the Vital Voice in his hometown of St. Louis. His novel, Midnight whispers: the Blake Danzig Chronicles, (Bold Strokes Books) was released in 2010 and is available through most online retailers or at His book, (Not Quite) Out to Pasture, was released in September 2012 by Walrus Publishing and, most recently, The Elephant Gate (published March 2013) is avaialble at







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