Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Sounded like Whole Riverside Blew Up'; Neighborhood Remembers 1944 Post Street Crash That Killed 3 and Left Lasting Images

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Sounded like Whole Riverside Blew Up'; Neighborhood Remembers 1944 Post Street Crash That Killed 3 and Left Lasting Images

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlie Patton

Jay Robinson was in his family home at the corner of James and Selma streets when he heard the roar of the engines as two Army P-51 Mustang fighter planes flew low over the Riverside neighborhood on the morning of July 20, 1944.

Moments later he heard the sound of the planes crashing along Post Street, a few blocks away.

"It took your breath away," said Robinson, who was 6 at the time. "It sounded like the whole Riverside area had blown up."

Robinson was part of a crowd of people who gathered around The Jenks House on Post Street Saturday to talk about the plane crash that had shaken the neighborhood 68 years earlier. Two Army lieutenants, John Keane "Jack" Egar and James Richard Cope, who were supposed to be on a training flight in the St. Petersburg area, had instead flown northeast to buzz Egar's childhood home.

But both pilots hit trees and crashed, killing themselves and a civilian, Millard E. McGhee, a 27-year-old shoe store manager, who died when an engine from Cope's plane came through the wall of the bathroom where he was shaving. The crash also destroyed or damaged 22 homes and apartment buildings, a dozen garages and eight automobiles, according to an Army investigative report.

Bob Mills, who was a 17-year-old boarding student at Bolles at the time, but whose family lived in the neighborhood, said Egar's mother was raking leaves in her yard at the time of the crash.

"Every resident knew all the others, and the pain was spread ... from King Street to Willow Branch Avenue along Post Street," he said.

Bill Boling, 10 at the time, rushed to the neighborhood with his sister to see what had happened. "My sister found an arm with a watch on it in a bush," he remembered.

Saturday's event was organized by Tom and Ila Rae Merten, the owners of The Jenks House, a bed and breakfast, and by officials of the Jacksonville Historical Society. …

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