Q: On April 4, 1977, a Southern Airways DC-9 bound for Atlanta made an emergency landing on a highway in New Hope, in Paulding County. Was there ever a memorial constructed to remember those who perished in the crash?
—Scott A. MacLean, Forest Park
A: The crash is called “The Worst Aircraft Disaster in Georgia History” on a plaque resembling a state historical marker that was erected last year in New Hope Cemetery, Hugh Walters, vice president of New Hope Memorial Flight 242 Inc. told me during a recent phone conversation. It has information about the crash on one side, and a list of 63 passengers and nine residents who died when the pilots of Southern Airways Flight 242 tried to land on Highway 92 Spur, which is now called Dallas-Acworth Highway. Walters said the group would like to add “nice benches” to the memorial and hopes to one day replace the plaque with a larger and permanent granite marker, when enough funds are raised. “I think we’ve done pretty good to get something there,” he said. The jet was caught in a severe thunderstorm on its way from Huntsville, Ala., to Atlanta. Both engines were knocked out as hail pelted the aircraft and the pilots couldn’t make it to any nearby airports, so they decided to land on the two-lane road at 4:18 p.m. The jet slid nearly 2,000 feet before colliding with a general store that doubled as a gas station, which exploded when hit. The crash killed 63 of the 85 on board, including the cockpit crew (two flight attendants were among the survivors). Nine people – including three mothers and their four children at the store – were killed on the ground. Sandy Purl, one of the surviving flight attendants, wrote a book called “Am I Alive? A Surviving Flight Attendant's Struggle and Inspiring Triumph Over Tragedy,” and recently visited Paulding County to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the crash.
Q: Who's the Bill Gardner of the Bill Gardner Parkway off of I-75 in Henry County?
—Lance DeLoach, Thomaston
A: William “Bill” Meeks Gardner, was a longtime Henry County businessman and was the first chairman of the county’s Board of Commissioners, elected county wide, from 1992-96. Gardner, who died on Sept. 19, 2010, was a native of Locust Grove and owned a peach farm for many years and Gardner Office Supply. Hampton-Locust Grove Road was renamed for him in 1997, Locust Grove Mayor Robert Price wrote to me in an email. Bill Gardner Parkway helps connect Locust Grove with Hampton and crosses I-75 just west of Locust Grove.
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