The Bad Guy (As told by Gary Hart)
Wednesday February 20th, 1975 The Cessna 173 flew through the dark Florida night. Pilot, Buddy Colt was flying left seat, Austin Idol was siting to his right and Gary Hart and Bobby Shane were in the back seat. (Some called it, "The Bad Guy's Airplane.") They were midway between Miami and their destination, Tampa, Florida. They had wrestled that night at Miami's Convention hall and were flying back to their homes in Tampa. Buddy had earned his pilots license, qualifying him for flying single engine aircraft as pilot in command sharing expenses.
FAA weather forecasts were reporting that Tampa weather was closing in with fog and low overcast conditions. In order to avoid the weather they would fly direct to Sarasota where the weather was still open.
Before reaching Sarasota, they ran smack into the soup (Clouds) you couldn't see a thing out the window. Buddy got in touch with Tampa Approach Control and received information that Sarasota was closing with fog, but that there was a break in the weather at Peter O. Knight airport in Tampa. Tampa Approach Control agreed to give the Cessna 173 an ASR (Air Surveillance Radar) approach to Peter O. Knight airport. Tampa approach gave instructions for Cessna 95 X-ray to turn right to a heading of 180 degrees and descend to 2,000 feet on approach to Peter O. Knight Airport at Davis Island, Tampa Florida.
In the mid 1970's the wrestling business was thriving. Territories had one or more towns running every night. Wrestlers were often working seven nights a week. In order to give them more time at home, many were flying the towns in privat aircraft. Wrestlers holding a pilot's liscense included, Buddy Colt, Ronnie Garvin, Jimmy Garvin, Eddie Graham, Lester Welch, Sam Steamboat, Sonny Meyers, Doug Donavan, (Karl Von Brauner) Rocky Smith, (Clubfoot Inferno) Bill Watts, Don Curtice and myself.
Some of the difficulties facing wrestlers flying private aircraft were:
Single engine at night is dangerous. If you lose an engine, there is no place to go. Night flying requires an instrument rating even though it is legal to fly at night without one. Four wrestlers in single engine aircraft cuts costs, but creates a weight problem. Weather can be dangerous however, there is an obligation to make the shot, regardless. Wrestlers were sharing expenses, flying economically as possible is not always the safest way. Leasing aircraft, means changing aircraft types. Pilot can not always be completely familiar with the aircraft he is flying.
Gary Hart recalled that night at Convention Hall in Miami. He was managing Pak Song against Dusty Rhodes. (Gary was the, "Bad Guy") Terry Funk was wrestling Bob Roop. When Roop came to the ring in a bell bottom jump suit, he jumped over the top rope to enter the ring. He hooked his bell bottoms on the turnbuckle and fell face first for his entrance. Terry Funk created so much heat and excitement ("The Bad Guy") upon leaving the ring after the match that someone got excited and fell off the back of the bleachers and had to be carried to the hospital. It was another exciting night at a sold out Convention Hall, Championship Wrestling from Florida style.
Now everyone in the Cessna 173 was concerned. Tampa Approach Control came over the radio, "Cessna 95 X-Ray, descend and maintain 1000 feet, turn left to a heading of 165. You are seven miles from Peter O. Knight airport."
They were in the clouds, then they could see lights on the ground, then back in the clouds. All in the plane were straining their eyes hoping to see the rotating beacon of Peter O. Knight airport.
Tampa Approach Control, "Cessna 95X-Ray turn right to a heading of 170, you are three miles from Peter O. Knight Airport." The next moment they were in the soup and could see nothing, then they broke clear of all clouds and could see Runway 17 at Peter O. Knight airport. Buddy pulled the power back and nosed the Cessna 173 down in an effort to reach the 2700 foot runway. They were high and to the left as they passed over the airport.
Buddy Colt rolled the aircraft to the left in order to go-around and return to the airport. Buddy was turnign into complete blackness as the sky was overcast above and below was the darkness of Tampa Bay. The landing lights were still on showing nothing until Austin Idol screamed, "We're going to hit the water." In the back seat, Gary Hart popped open his seat belt. The Cessna 173 flew into the water at over a hundred miles per hour.
The next thing Gary knew he was swimming in Tampa Bay. He could see a light and swam toward it. He could hear the voice of Austin Idol in the water with him. He grabbed Austin and they swam to the light. He could hear Buddy Colt in the water and swam back into the bay to help the injured pilot back to the bank. Next, he returned looking for his friend Bobby Shane who was nowhere to be found in the darkness of Tampa Bay.
With both Austin and Buddy on the bank, Gary went to the nearest house for help. The force of the crash had torn all his clothes off and he was covered in blood with broken back and clavicle and gashes requiring 180 stitches to his head and face. The person who answered the door told him, "If you don't get off of his property, I will call the police."
Gary returned to Buddy Colt and Austin Idol where they were joined by Mrs. Bob Roop who was there to meet her husband who came in minutes later in another small plane with Dick Murdoch. She saw the crash and thought it was her husband.
Early the next morning, they pulled the plane from Tampa Bay, Bobby Shane was trapped in the back seat. There was no water in his lungs, cause of death was impact.
Thursday February 21st 1975, Jacksonville Coliseum
Jacksonville, Florida. Jack Brisco was standing in the back ready to enter
the ring for the main event. He was listening as the ring announcer said,
"Bobby Shane will not be appearing in the six man tag team match tonight. He was killed last night in an airplane accident."
Bobby was a "Heel" and the fans cheered. S
Later, Jack told me that was one time he was ashamed to be a wrestler.
Or could it be a tribute to Bobby,
He was the "Bad Guy."
You gave your all Bobby, "Rest in Peace."
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