Woman to honor stepbrother killed in 1974 car crash

PARKERSBURG – Betsy Barger Alderman is determined that her stepbrother Byron Caudill receives a gravestone and memorial service.

Caudill of Parkersburg died after being a passenger in car that crashed into a tree on Blennerhassett Avenue in Belpre on July 7, 1974. Caudill was 18 years old.

Several other teenagers were seriously injured in the crash.

Alderman, a Parkersburg native who now lives in Chattanooga, Tenn., said a friend called her several months ago, explaining her stepbrother’s grave at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Parkersburg was missing a marker.

Alderman decided to have a ceremony at 1 p.m. May 26 honoring Caudill and giving him a graveside memorial service officiated by the Rev. L. Norman Butler.

Rev. Butler is the father of Philip A. Butler, the driver of the car that crashed 39 years ago.

Alderman was 16 years old at the time of her stepbrother’s death. She said it was a tragic event for not only her family but all seven families involved.

“There was a lot of grief in the community,” she said. “The families suffered.”

She hopes the ceremony will bring closure to loved ones. Alderman’s stepfather has passed away but had a hard time dealing with the death of his son.

The May 26 ceremony in the cemetery along 23rd Street will be followed by a picnic at Parkersburg City Park, where Caudill used to play basketball with friends.

Alderman said at least one other survivor of the Belpre crash in 1974 has agreed to attend the ceremony. At least three of the young men have since passed away, she said.

According to newspaper accounts at the time, Philip A. Butler, 17, of 2020 17th St., Parkersburg, was driving a 1968 Chrysler Plymouth on Blennerhassett Avenue in Belpre in July 1974 when the accident occurred.

The car, packed with teens, made a turn too sharply and hit a tree broadside. The newspaper article said the car skidded out of control for what law enforcement officials described as “some distance” before striking the tree.

Belpre volunteers and St. Joseph’s ambulance crews arrived on the scene of what would later become a fatal accident, the newspaper reported.

The July 8, 1974 newspaper article reported:

* Caudill, 18, 2137 17th St., Parkersburg, later died after being taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital for injuries he suffered in the crash. He was one of two people listed in critical condition by hospital administrators.

* William M. Gant, 16, 618 Jamesson St., Parkersburg, was listed in serious condition with a head injury at Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital.

* Philip A. Butler, 17, 2020 17th St., the driver of the car, was in good condition at St. Joseph’s Hospital with a concussion.

* Doug S. Butcher, 18, 1518 Park Ave., Parkersburg, was being treated for two broken legs at CCMH; doctors said he was in satisfactory condition.

* William G. Guice, 17, 623 Jamesson St., Parkersburg, was at CCMH being treated for multiple fractures but listed in satisfactory condition.

* William R. Robinson, 18, 2204 16th St., Parkersburg, was in satisfactory condition for unknown injuries at CCMH.

* Jeff M. Lantz, 18, 1919 19th St., Parkersburg, was treated and released from St. Joseph’s Hospital.