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Clay County Park To Be Named In Honor Of Crashed Navy Warplane

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A park on Clay County’s Fleming Island is being named to commemorate the crash of a Navy warplane and honor the lives lost on Fleming Island 70-years-ago this week. 

On June 14, 1951, nine members of a squadron that had been created to fight in the Korean War were out for a practice flight in Clay County. A fire broke out in the cockpit of the P2V-2 Neptune patrol bomber. 

Pilot L.B. Worley tried to land the plane on the practice field, but he pulled up at the last minute, as though to try the landing one more time, and crashed into a pine tree instead. Seven of the crew members died, and the other two were seriously injured. That’s according to Naval Air Station Jacksonville Base Safety Director Ron Williamson, who said he’s spent many years researching and documenting the base’s history. 

The service members killed in the crash were Lt. Commander L.B. Worley, Lt. Commander Lester C. Kee, Aviation Mechanic 1st Class Clair Meek Walizer, Aviation Mechanic 3rd Class Milton Trower, Aviation Radioman 3rd Class James Alexander Logwood Jr., Aviation Ordnance Airman Turner Eugene Jones, and Airman William Fred Steward. 

The two survivors were Lt. (Jg.) Ralph Howell Jones and Airman Apprentice John Dabbs Barnett. Jones died in Gainesville in 2010 at the age of 91. The Navy could not provide any information on the whereabouts of Barnett. 

The park, located at 2070 Thunderbolt Road, is set to be named Neptune Park.

The Clay County Board of Commissioners and representatives from NAS Jacksonville will dedicate the park. Afterward, members of the Fleming Island Athletic Association plan to hold a scrimmage on the new ball fields. 

“It’s great that Clay County is doing this, because we have a lot of aviation history in Clay County,” Williamson said. “The fact that Clay County decided that out of 47 parks in the county, to take one and dedicate it to the naval aviators that trained out of NAS Jacksonville, is outstanding for the history and for people to know what has happened there.” 

The commemoration is scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m.

Contact Sydney Boles at sboles@wjct.org, or on Twitter at @sydneyboles.