FORT BRAGG: Ceremony marks Green Ramp Disaster anniversary - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

82nd Airborne Division marks Green Ramp Disaster anniversary

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FORT BRAGG, N.C. -

With the calling of names, the singing of songs and a moment of silence, a ceremony on Fort Bragg Monday marked 20 years since 24 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers died in an accident.

"On the 23rd of March every year, I remember it extra," said Robert Beaujean who survived the accident. The ceremony was a day removed from the exact anniversary date.

On March 23, 1994, Beaujean was out on Pope Field preparing for a jump that night, when an F-16D clipped a C-130 Hercules as they were both landing. The plane landed safely, but the fighter jet fell to the tarmac as the pilots ejected.

The jet slid into a parked C-141, and both aircraft exploded in flames. Hot metal and 55,000 gallons of fuel sprayed across the Green Ramp area where Beaujean was with the 2nd Brigade, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

Eighteen members of that regiment died; five soldiers in the 505th PIR died; and one soldier from the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Brigade Combat Team died.

"It just looked like a big flaming bowling ball coming at us," Beaujean recalled. "I'm a miracle that I'm standing here. I believe a guardian angel saved me because the guy to right side of me was killed and the guy to the left side of me was also killed.”

The ceremony was also about remembering the good that day -- the soldiers and others who worked to help the injured and dying. Beaujean remembers seeing a soldier on fire run past him.

"I knocked him to the ground and tried to beat the flames out of him. It didn't happen," Beaujean recalled through tears.

Brigadier General Christopher Cavoli reminded attendees about soldiers pulling other soldiers from fire and trying to put out fires on their bodies, even with their own hands.

Members of the military were so responsive to the disaster, that by the time civilian emergency responders arrived everyone with injuries was already transported to a hospital.

"There were great things happening here that day despite the tragedy. And it's that spirit that, even in our commemoration of the terrible events of that day, we celebrate," Cavoli said.

The disaster is considered to be the largest loss of life for the division in peacetime since the end of World War II.

Copyright 2014 WNCN. All rights reserved.

Brandon Herring

Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon. More>>

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