Loved ones honor Shelbyville crash victims 50 years later

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SHELBY COUNTY, Ind. — Monday marked 50 years since a plane headed for Indianapolis crashed onto a farm near Shelbyville.

No one survived, but the legacy of these passengers and crew lives on.

That same crash site brought closure to victims, who instead focused on the number 83.

“So as you mourn the ones you loved, remember who they were, cherish the memories you have, express your feelings, and speak for them as they no longer can,” said Nolan Elrod, the grandson of Captain James Elrod, the pilot of Flight 853.

Eighty-three people died when an Allegheny Airlines flight from Cincinnati crashed near Shelbyville.

A small plane collided midair with the jet airliner, which landed in a field near a mobile home park.

“Often when the story is told, they talk about a 5-week-old baby who was in a trailer and a 4-foot action tank ripped through our trailer,” said Laurie Oetjen, who was on the grounds the day of the crash. “I was that baby!”

At the memorial site, Oetjen honored the crew and passengers.

“It’s overwhelming how many people are here,” said a victim’s son, Harry Shaw IV.

Shaw came from North Carolina to remember his dad.

Diane Elrod, a flight attendant, came from the west coast for her dad too, Captain James Elrod.

“I was so proud of my father, and I just loved airports and the sound of the planes,” she detailed. “I would go watch them take off and land.”

The Elrod love of aviation carried on; his grandson, Nolan, is a pilot too.

“… to see how many people still have deep connections to this place, and to see how many people are still affected by what happened so long ago, well it’s very powerful,” he explained.

A power that’s bonded total strangers to Indiana’s worst aviation nightmare, and for one son, it’s an obligation to remember the man, not the victim.

“When I’m up there alone at times I think of dad and think he’s looking down and smiling and saying, ‘That a boy,'” Captain Elrod’s son told FOX59.

Because of this crash, federal aviation officials made several changes to the industry.

Now, most private and commercial aircrafts use radar systems that provide a “conflict alert” to avoid air collisions.

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