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Clinton Visits Soldiers Injured in N. Carolina Plane Collision

March 26, 1994|From Associated Press

POPE AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. — President Clinton surveyed the charred site of a devastating military plane crash Friday and visited with two dozen soldiers burned in the tragedy.

"It was very, very moving, and I'm very glad I came," Clinton said after his hospital visits.

The sky was overcast and the air heavy as Clinton's motorcade crawled by the burned, crumbled remains of the C-141 transport plane that exploded Wednesday after being hit by an F-16 that had collided with another plane in midair.

The President left his car to view the area where 500 paratroopers waiting to board the C-141 were engulfed by an inferno. The death total had climbed to 23 by the time of Clinton's visit.

Clinton said he made "small talk" with burn victims at the Womack Army Medical Center at adjacent Ft. Bragg. His first stop was the intensive care unit, where he spoke to two badly burned victims of the accident, according to White House spokesman Jeff Eller.

He also spoke individually with 26 less severely injured patients with burns on their hands.

"The morale of the people who have been burned and injured is high," the President reported. "Their pride in their work and their country is very strong.

"Person after person said, 'You know, I just can't wait to get back to my work; I'm ready to serve again,' " Clinton said.

The President said he was "profoundly grateful" to those who had been caring for the soldiers injured in the accident.

After his visit to the base, Clinton flew to Dallas, where he, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and daughter, Chelsea, attended a wedding rehearsal dinner Friday night for Clinton's younger brother, Roger, and his bride-to-be, Molly Martin.

Roger Clinton, 37, and Martin, 25, are to be married today in the DeGolyer House at the Dallas Arboretum, with the President serving as best man. Martin is pregnant with Roger's child and is due in late April.

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