Luther Haynes was cutting grass in Zion Baptist Church’s front yard in Shelby, North Carolina when at 6:10 p.m. he heard what he described as a loud “swoosh” out of the sky. He looked up and briefly saw a large object hurtling with a hissing sound toward earth, disappearing behind the church and landing with a massive thud about forty yards away in an unused section of the cemetery.
Wondering what it was, Haynes hurried around the church. He first encountered a 4-inch deep depression in the soft earth about the size of a suitcase, then about 25 feet away he was horrified to see that the object he saw fall was a human being.
He resembled more a ruined mannequin than a man. Every bone in his dead, shattered body appeared broken. His clothes were shredded and both shoes were missing.
Haynes immediately ran inside the church to call police.
Thirty-five minutes earlier, at 5:40 p.m. on June 10, 1956, newlyweds Oren A. Pruitt, age 38, and his wife of 22 hours, the former Blandine Tidd Smith, had boarded a Piedmont DC-3 Tidewater Pacemaker airplane in Charlotte to go meet Blandine’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Smith, in Asheville. After marrying in the small town of York, South Carolina they originally were going to take a bus to Asheville, but they missed it so they booked a 5:00 flight at the Charlotte airport. Missing that also, they managed to snag the two last seats on the 5:40 flight.
Oren first met Blandine while working as a chef at a hotel where she was a hostess. They dated for almost seven years before deciding to marry. During that time Oren had left the hotel and was working in Charlotte as a surveyor’s assistant.
At 5:43, with a full load of 24 passengers, the flight roared off the Charlotte runway and became airborne, eventually settling at about 6,000 feet due to the unpressurized cabin, which was typical at the time. Twenty minutes into the flight Oren and Blandine chatted amiably about the wedding and of his apprehensions about meeting her parents. After noticing and telling his bride that she looked “a little peaked,” she asked him to go get her a cup of water from the restroom. Despite the seat belt light still on because of anticipated turbulence over the Smoky Mountains, Oren got up and walked to the restroom, near the rear of…