Fort Bragg, N.C. — Twenty-four Fort Bragg soldiers were killed and more than 100 were injured 23 years ago, when two airplanes collided over what was then Pope Air Force Base, sending a ball of fire into a crowd of soldiers on the ground.
On Wednesday, about 300 medical personnel were at Womack Army Medical Center on Fort Bragg to discuss what has been learned since the March 23, 1994, tragedy about treating soldiers during a mass causality event.
Richard Clapp and Jay Nelson were among the 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers preparing for a training exercise on Fort Bragg’s Green Ramp that day when a giant fireball came rolling through an open-bay building filled with about 500 soldiers after the wreckage of an F-16 fighter jet that collided mid-air with a C-130 transport plane hit a C-141 cargo jet on the ground.
“A log was on his leg there, and so I went over to try and help him, not realizing I was still on fire,” Clapp said. “Another soldier tackled me to put me out.”
Both men suffered extensive burns, and their scars still remind them of how lucky they are to be alive.
“Folks were hurt. Some people were still on fire.