Marshall community remembers the 75 during annual Memorial Fountain Ceremony

HUNTINGTON, W.Va.Nov. 14, 1970 is a day that the Marshall University community will never forget.

On that date, Southern Airways Flight 932 carrying 75 Thundering Herd coaches, teammates, staff, supporters and flight crew members crashed into a hillside as it approached Tri-State Airport, killing everyone on board. One of the victims on that plane was Offensive Line Coach Al Carelli Jr.

His son, Vince Carelli, spoke during the annual Memorial Fountain Ceremony Monday on Marshall’s Huntington campus. Carelli read excerpts from his mother’s book “Halftime’ about that night and the aftermath. The book was made for him and his brother Ron to remember Al Carelli Jr. as Vince was three years old at the time of the accident.

“My father loved coaching football. There’s no doubt in my mind why football is so engrained to who I am today. My dad loved coaching football so much, he partially named me after his all-time coaching idol Vince Lombardi,” Carelli said.

Carelli now lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with his wife, Tamra. He said that even living away from the community, it will never leave his heart. He credited the Marshall community for always honoring the victims.

“I am totally inspired by how this university instills in its culture and students, the honor in which you grab onto the fact that the 75 and this tragedy didn’t define a school,” Carelli said.

Marshall President Brad Smith, a Kenova native, was six years old at the time of the crash. He told the ceremony crowd it’s personal for him.

“I was six years old on that tragic night when the sirens whaled and the mountain near my home burned. I was a junior attending Marshall University when the Thundering Herd football team achieved the first winning season following the tragedy,” Smith said.

Second-year Marshall football coach Charles Huff participated in the ceremony. He encouraged his team and the crowd to honor the 75 every day.

“To the dignitary here, to everybody here, friends and family, relatives and supporters, I thank you for allowing me to be your head coach of not only one of the greatest universities in the country but a university that has one of the greatest stories ever,” Huff continued.

The Southern Airways Flight 932 crash into the hills of Wayne County is known as the worst sports-related tragedy in American history. The plane was carrying 37 members of the football team, eight members of the coaching staff, 25 boosters, two pilots, two flight attendants, and a charter coordinator.

The names of all 75 victims were read Sunday followed by a rose being placed on the fountain. The fountain’s water was then turned off until spring.

The Marshall football team won this past Saturday, while honoring the victims, by beating Appalachian State 28-21.

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