Sept. 4, 1969: Six crew members and an Air Force observer die in the crash of a U.S. Air Force long-range B-52 bomber just moments after it takes off from Loring Air Force Base in Limestone.

The 158-foot-long plane, fully loaded with fuel as it begins a nighttime training exercise, crashes into a bog about 3 miles north of the base. Witnesses report having seen a ball of fire in the air before the crash.

It takes an Air Force rescue crew and state troopers three hours to bulldoze a path and wade waist-deep through a swamp to reach the crash site, guided by the glow of the burning wreckage; and it takes another three hours to find the first bodies.

The dead include six officers and a master sergeant, all from out of state.

The plane belongs to the 42nd Bombardment Wing at Loring, part of the 8th Air Force.

The base is named after Charles J. Loring Jr., a Portland native who died during the Korean War when he crashed his damaged plane into an enemy artillery installation, destroying it. The base was no longer needed after the Cold War ends and closes in September 1994.

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]


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