November 14, 1970: Marshall University Plane Crash

1970 Marshall University Football Team

On the night of November 14, 1970, a Southern Airways DC-9 approached a foggy and rainy Tri-State Airport in Wayne County. The airliner slammed into a hillside just short of the runway and burst into flames. All 75 passengers were killed. 

On board were nearly the entire Marshall University football team along with the head coach, athletic director, and 36 other fans, coaches, announcers, and crew members. It is still the deadliest sports-related air disaster in U.S. history.

The tragedy affected all of Huntington. Everyone seemingly knew someone on board the flight. A local doctor served as a pallbearer at six funerals, and others attended a funeral a day for a week.

The event remains an important part of Huntington’s collective memory. Every year on November 14, community members gather at the Marshall University student center to commemorate the crash. At the center, a memorial fountain with 75 jets of water honors the 75 who died.

In 2006, the movie We Are Marshall brought the tragedy back into the national spotlight. It recounted how the community rallied around the new football team after the crash.