SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — Friday marked 70 years since the deadliest plane crash in Maine history.
A military plane, piloted by Phillip Russell, of South Portland, crashed into a mobile home park on July 11, 1944 in what’s now the Red Bank neighborhood. The crashed killed 17 people on the ground, as well as Russell and his co-pilot. Twenty more people were injured.
John Kierstead, of South Portland, along with one survivor and her family met at the Long Creek Plane Crash Memorial on Friday to honor the lives lost 70 years ago.
Kierstead has become an expert on the crash and has worked to keep its memory on people’s minds.
“This thing was a huge disaster,” Kierstead said. “You had mothers running back into burning homes three or four times to save their children. On the fourth time, some of them didn’t come out.”
Kierstead says that sacrifice is one of the most important legacies to remember.
“There’s no happiness — only in the heroism of the individuals who stood up when there was no choice and did what they had to do.”
The Long Creek crash wasn’t the only aviation disaster on July 11, 1944. That same day, 10 men died when a B-17 crashed in the mountains west of Rangeley.