What's New
Search Engine
Photo Gallery
Unit History
Unit Honors
Voices Of Past
F&F Association
How To Submit


Levelland Air Crash Claims Three Sunday
 Two Killed In Dickens Car Crash; 13
Other Persons Are Hurt In Mishaps

Five persons were killed, 13 others injured Sunday in South Plains accidents, Three of them, including two young women, died in the flames of a crashed airplane Sunday afternoon near Levelland airport,  Two others died after an early Sunday collision of two automobiles near Dickens.

Those w/ho died in the plane crash were:
.•  WILBUR ELMON FINLEY,.21, the pilot, of Levelland
.•  RITA FAY SHIRLEY, 20, of Levelland
.•  RUBY SHIRLEY, her sister, 39, of Levelland

Dead in the car collision were: JESSIE LEE (Jake) TUCKER, 34, of Levelland. LORENZO GUTIEVEZ, 39, a Spur Mexican.

   LEVELLAND, Oct, 20 (Special) —>Three, persons were killed, two of them women, when an airplane crashed at 3:40 o'clock Sunday afternoon approximately a mile south of Leyelland's Municipal airport. The bodies., were burned.
   They were Wilbur Elmon Finley, 21, the pilot.
    - Rita Fay Shirley, 20.
    - Ruby Shirley, 39.

Had Just Taken Off
 The 165 hp four-place Fairchild 24 cabin plane had just taken off, and apparently "stalled out" from approximately 250 feel. It fell in fast and landed upright on level terrain, washing out its landing gear but not flipping,
   Ironically, however, it (scooted along the ground through n fence, and quickly was enveloped in flames.
   Sparks generated by friction of the plane and the fence possibly caused the. tanks to be set afire, it was theorized by Frank Lawlis, port manager and owner of the $7,000 plane which had flown only 110 hours before the crash.

Believed To Have Stalled
   The opinion .apparently was reflected by Bobby Taylor, who had taken. off just ahead of the Fairchild and from the cockpit of his Cub cruiser saw the plane occupied by Finley and the Misses Shirley nose up sharply from an estimated 250. feet and plunge lo the ground. Taylor also was of opinion that the Fairchild stalled out.
 . C. C. Bales and C. W, Swan, employees of Vernon's dairy, of. Levelland, were in vicinity of the crash, but could do nothing .to save the victims. Levelland Fire department also found il could not save those trapped In the plane. The crash was the first fatal crackup in history of the Levelland port, Lawlis told Lois Vestal, Levelland newspaperman.

Flown About 75 Hours
   Lawlis said Finley had flown approximately 75 hours, about 50 of which was solo time. He had commenced' flying after his discharge from armed service in World War II, under the GI Bill of Rights Flight Training program and, after obtaining his private license, had. enrolled for a commercial flying course. He had temporarily discontinued the commercial Instruction course, and had rented the plane he flew Sunday. Lawlis said he expected a CAA inspector lo arrive today for an investigation of the crash,
   Bodies were taken to Plains funeral home of Levelland. Funeral services will be read at 3 o'clock this afternoon from the First Baptist.church for Finley. Ernest West, minister of the Austin Street Church of Christ, will officiate. Burial will be in Levelland cemetery. Finley is survived. by his parents, Mr., and Mrs., T. E. Finley; a sister, Allene Finley, a graduate of Texas Tech and a brother James Finley. All live in Levelland.
Funeral Tuesday
   Funeral services for the Misses Shirley will be read at 2:30 o'clock Tuesday afternoon from Clauene Baptist, church, nine .miles south of Levelland.
   The Shirley family had lived here approximately 20 years. Survivors are the parents, Mr. and Mrs. J, M. Shirley; three brothers, Glen of Levelland, Clifford of California, and Jack of Levelland; four sisters, Mrs. Gladys Storey of California, Mrs. Edna Blackwell of New Mexico, Mrs. Norma Palmer oĢ Sanderson, Texas, and Miss Edith Shirley of Levelland.

[courtesy of Leona Henderson]

Application for a grave marker and resulting bronze marker for Wilbur E. Finley in Section: B-274-3, Resthaven Memorial Park ,Lubbock (Lubbock county), Texas,

Wilbur enlisted at Fort Sill, OK on 14 June 1944.

Pvt Finely was transferred from Hq 82nd Airborne Division to Company D, 508th PIR on 13 October 1945.

He was discharged on 15 February 1947.

Death certificate for Wilbur E. Finley documents that death was ascribed to severe burns due to plane crash on 15 October 1947, just eight months after returning to civilian life.



Copyright and all other rights reserved by the Family and Friends of The 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment Association or by those who are otherwise cited,
For problems or questions regarding this web site, please contact