Charles Hugh Culpepper rescued John M. Wallace III and two others from burning in an explosion, Cusseta, Georgia, December 2, 1963. When a troop carrier helicopter attempted to make an emergency landing on the medial strip of a highway, it tipped onto its side, skidded on the pavement, and burst into flames. Wallace, 27, Army captain, and Theodore C. Jasper were trapped in the cockpit, where one door lay against the ground and the other was blocked by flames, which also prevented their reaching the rear compartment in which Oscar Mitchell and 10 other servicemen were passengers, The fuel tanks contained approximately 250 gallons of gasoline. Culpepper, 42, restaurant operator, ran 200 feet to near the nose of the helicopter and, seeing Wallace and Jasper in the cockpits kicked at the windshield. He removed the broken glass from one panel, making an opening two feet square through which Wallace thrust his head and arms. Within two feet of high flames, Culpepper pulled Wallace from the cockpit. As together they withdrew Jasper, there was a muffled explosion. While Jasper was putting out flames on his attire, Culpepper called for Wallace to help him remove Mitchell who had made his way into the cockpit from the rear compartment. Culpepper and Wallace reached through the windshield opening and took hold of Mitchell, whose burning clothes were caught. With a pocketknife Culpepper cut Mitchell free and then drew him out of the aircraft with the aid of Wallace. Meanwhile others had gotten out through a side door in the rear compartment. Other explosions occurred, and flames rose more then 100 feet above the helicopter. Mitchell succumbed to his extensive burns. Wallace and Jasper had been burned about the head, and Culpepper had suffered burns to his hands. They recovered.
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Charles Hugh Culpepper, age 83, of Cusseta, GA died Tuesday, September 27, 2005 at St. Francis Hospital in Columbus.
Graveside funeral services will be Friday, September 30, 2005, 11 a.m. at Harmony Cemetery, Cusseta, GA. with the Rev. Tommy Fountain, Jr. officiating.
Mr. Culpepper was born December 9, 1921 in Cordele, GA., the son of David Benjamine and Florence Hawkins Culpepper. He lived in Cusseta most of his life and was a member of Cusseta Baptist Church and Smith Lodge #85, Richland, and Hiram Lodge #21 in Cusseta. He was the widower of Viola Martin Culpepper and retired from the Restaurant Business which he owned and operated.
Survivors include his daughter, Barbara C. Bush of Suwanne, GA.; one son, Charles H. “Chuck” Culpepper, Jr.,; grandchildren, Jeff Culpepper, Amy Culpepper, Jason Culpepper, Kacee Culpepper, Stacey Sagues, Monique Gainey and Seth Bush.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Alzheimer’s Association.
The family will receive friends at Tante Funeral Home Thursday from 6 until 8 p.m.
Tante Funeral Home of Buena Vista, GA is in charge of arrangements.
(Published in Columbus Ledger-Enquirer on Sep. 29, 2005.)