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November 14, 1970 ... Remembered

Memorial of the 1970 Marshall University Football Team Plane Crash

Mark J. Smara

MARK JOE SMARA, ASSISTANT ATHLETIC TRAINER

A graduate of Iowa State University, twenty-three year old Mark J. Smaha was a Marshall University graduate student, who was hired as an Assistant Athletic Trainer during the 1970 season. He had fallen behind on a class assignment so was excused from the game. Upon being told of the crash, he was directed to the Cabell Huntington Hospital, where he met team Chaplin, Robert Scott, and Dr. James Heckman, a local physician, who volunteered as one of the team doctors. They had been asked to come to the hospital and help those injured. While waiting in a room, some West Virginia State Troopers entered and asked the men to accompany them. While walking down a hallway, they told them that no one on the plane had survived and they were needed to help identify the dead. Apparently while Smaha was driven to the temporary morgue at the airport, Heckman drove to Marshall to retrieve the players medical records. The first player Smara identified was Roger Childers; he spent many hours during the night at the disagreeable, but necessary task. He also was a pall-bearer in a number of funerals. He replaced Jim Shroer as the head athletic trainer for the rest of 1970. The experience deeply affected him the rest of his life; he could not discuss his experience publicly for years. He was eventfully diagnosed with post-traumatic stress, but after extensive therapy he was cured. After graduating from Marshall in 1972, he worked for the next thirty years in his chosen field, becoming a distinguished and nationally known athletic trainer. He served for 21 years as the Director of Athletic Medicine at Washington State University, until he retired in 1999.

He was not on the airplane.

Team Photo

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