Navy Fury Crash 1963
The Green Hill Day Camp operated along Keith Valley Road from 1957 to July 1963 when it became the site of what is probably the worst tragedy in the history of Horsham. A Navy Fury jet lost control and crashed into a Sunday picnic killing 8 people and injuring 17 more as the plane lost its wings as it plowed through trees and then hit a bath house sideways where the picnickers were waiting out a sudden thunderstorm The site was several hundred yards short of the runway in an area listed as having the among the highest potential for crashes. Eight people were killed (Philadelphia Inquirer, September 23, 1993, page 130 column 1). The camp had been rented out to the picnickers who were gathered under the roof of a bathhouse to escape a heavy rain when the plane crashed into the bathhouse. (Daily Intelligencer, july 10, 1963 page 5 column 6)
The pilot, Marine Captain John W. Butler, ejected safely, He said " I was at the point where I couldn't do anything else. I do not think I could have changed it at all" (Delaware County Times July 9, 1963 page 1, column 4) He had ejected a half mile from the crash site. The camp had been hidden by the trees and he thought the plane was headed toward an open field. The planes wings were sheared off when it hit the treees and it then hit the bath house in a ball of flames. (The Express (Lock Haven, PA) July 8, 1963 page 1, column 2)
One of the wheels from the plane crashed through the bedroom window of a nearby house and knocked a 14 month old baby, Duncan Lederer from his crib. Duncan survived with only a scratch. His mother, Grace Lederer, was taking a bath at the time and narrowly missed being hit by the wheel (Philadelphia Inquirer July 8, 1963 page 3 column 6)
Captain Butler said he developed electrical trouble while on a training missing with 3 other planes. He signaled to his leader he was having trouble and was ordered from 36,000 feet to 20,000 feet. He then followed the PA Turnpike back to WGNAS. He was unsure whether his landing gear was down so he made a pass over the field for visual confirmation. Assured they were down, he circled again to land when he said the controls locked and the plane dipped to the right and plunged nose down. He ejected at 330 feet which was the lowest altitude that he could safely do so. (The Sentinel (Carisle, PA) July 9, 1963 page 1, column 3)
The camp was the site of an annual reunion of 2 family groups "Roseman Cousins Club" and "Weiner Family Circle". Jennie Klein (36), her daughter Sandra (10), her son Harvey (4); Jeanne Arnold (40), her daughter Judy (1); Emmanuel Milton Klein (47) and Carolyn Herschfield (10), all from Philadelphia, were killed in the crash. At least 17 others of the 125 in attendance were injured and 12 were admitted to Abington Memorial Hospital (The Express July 8)
While the thunderstorm drove the victims toward the shelter of the bath house, it also caused many others to leave the baseball field and run to their cars - escaping the plane that bounced across the field shortly after.
The camp closed following the crash and moved to Warrington. It had been opened in 1957. Navy Captain Albert Waldman, commander of the WGNAS said the danger of the location had repeatedly been pointed out to the camp operators. The camp's owner, Robert Gould, said he had never been warned.