Police pilot gets hero's farewell Officer Barry Wood 2nd member of force to die in 5 days

November 11, 1998|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

An article Nov. 11 about the funeral of Officer Barry W. Wood, who was killed in a helicopter crash at the B&O Railroad Museum, reported that in 1970 during the Vietnam War, Wood had declared safe a helicopter that later crashed and killed two of his friends. In fact, Woods had declared the helicopter unsafe.

The Sun regrets the error.

Twenty-eight years ago at the height of the Vietnam War, Barry W. Wood inspected a Huey helicopter and proclaimed it safe to fly. It crashed during its mission, killing two of Wood's Army buddies.

"He had always thought that if only he did things differently, those two men wouldn't have died," said the Rev. Richard Goode, pastor of Cokesbury United Methodist Church in Harford County.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Mourners reflected on that yesterday -- the day before Veterans Day -- as they buried Wood, a Baltimore police helicopter pilot for 27 years who was killed a week ago when his chopper crashed at the entrance of the B&O Railroad Museum west of downtown.

Speaker after speaker took to the podium at Ruck Funeral Home on Harford Road and praised Wood, 50, for piloting his crippled Schweizer 300C away from rowhouses and tilting the aircraft so it hit the pavement on its left side, where he was sitting.

"Barry took the brunt of that crash," said Sal Milizano, who served with Wood in Vietnam.

That thought was not lost on Officer Mark A. Keller, who was sitting beside Wood on Nov. 4. Quoting from the Gospel of St. John, Keller said, "There is no greater love than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.

"Barry did that for me," Keller told the small room packed with 100 friends, family, aviators and Army veterans. "Because of that, I will always love him, and my family will always love him, all the days of our lives."

Wood was the second Baltimore police officer to die in five days. His helicopter went down as his colleague, Officer Harold J. Carey, was being buried. Carey was killed Oct. 30 when a police van he was riding in collided with a police cruiser speeding to a call.

"These last two weeks have been the darkest moments in the history of the Baltimore Police Department," Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier said during the funeral.

Frazier noted the unique view of the city that Wood enjoyed as he policed from the air. "Now he has the same view of us he always did," Frazier said. "But now he is in a loving place called heaven."

'God Bless Officer Wood'

More than 1,000 officers from across the state, along with aviators from New York to California, attended the funeral and burial at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Timonium, where 11 helicopters flew over in tribute. Hundreds of police cars filled Harford Road, which was closed from Cold Spring Lane north to Baltimore County for six hours.

Seating was limited, so most mourners lined Harford Road and stood at attention during the 90-minute service, which was broadcast outside the funeral home as a cold drizzle fell.

Stores lining the normally busy street were open, but customers were scarce. The regular crowd at Golden Key Restaurant was replaced by a dozen officers from Prince George's County. Workers stood outside an empty CVS drug store at Harford Road and Hamilton Avenue and watched. A flower shop replaced its marquee advertisement with a tribute to the city's fallen protector: "God Bless Officer Wood."

For two hours before the 10 a.m. funeral, officers filed by Wood's open casket. A book of poetry lay open on his chest; a picture of his wife, Martha, was propped by his left shoulder.

Two small tables were filled with Wood's war medals, his neatly folded leather flight jacket and shiny white helmet. He was buried in his dress-blue police uniform, his name tag on his breast pocket.

Martha Wood told how the couple met 28 years ago and how her husband had planned to retire in five years. "He had planned everything down to the last penny," she said, "to make sure he could be a good provider."

Wood was remembered as a distinguished veteran who served in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970 with the 227th Aviation Battalion in Lai Khe, northwest of Saigon. He flew troops into battle, identified enemy hiding places and rescued injured soldiers.

But it was the fatal chopper crash in 1970 that Wood remembered. It wasn't until a reunion of flight officers from his unit in 1993 that he learned the crash had been caused by an engine defect he couldn't have discovered. "He had carried that burden with him for 23 years," Milizano said.

The helicopter crash that took Wood's life is under investigation, but federal officials have focused on two holes in the engine casing.

Wood's wife, in a strong voice, told mourners she was "angry" with what had happened but would not elaborate out of "respect for protocol.

"We shared everything, and we did everything," she said. "Nov. 4, 1998, at 2:34 p.m. -- that was the end of my life. Barry always said that his job was to come home to me. He tried."

Pub Date: 11/11/98

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