As John F. Kennedy was telling inaugural crowds in 1961 not to ask what their country could do for them, Air Force Staff Sgt. Lionel Terry of Athens, Ala., lay alive but slowly dying on frozen Utah rangeland.

His Strategic Air Command B-52 - which may or may not have been carrying a nuclear bomb - had disintegrated and crashed in violent winds near Monticello, Utah, the night before on Jan. 19, 1961.A Deseret News probe last year showed the Air Force had been told almost exactly where Terry's parachute had landed. But it managed not to find him during the 36 hours it kept civilians out of the area - even though it had called in a helicopter. Evidence suggests it may have been looking for a lost nuclear bomb instead.

When civilians were finally allowed in the area, they found Terry's still-warm body within 20 minutes by following maps drawn by other survivors (which the Air Force also had). Rescuers figured Terry must have died only minutes before they found him in the frigid weather.

The Air Force denied in 1961 that a bomb had been on board, and the plane's co-pilot still does. But conflicting documents, military censorship, comments to Terry's family and sometimes strange silence give some basis to the possibility.

The Deseret News began probing when a 1992 Senate study listed the Monticello crash site as one of 29 possible nuclear "weapons accidents" sites nationwide. A deputy assistant secretary of defense then testified that 29 accidents had indeed actually involved bombs, but did not verify they happened at exactly the 29 sites listed in the Senate study.

That official later scheduled but canceled interviews to clarify whether a bomb was aboard in the Utah accident.

Documents about the crash obtained in 1992 had large portions about the flight's history censored and appeared to cut out what happened immediately after the crash. But officials said that censored portions gave no evidence of a nuclear bomb on board.

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Terry's family, meanwhile, had sought some information through the years. Glenn Terry, a brother of the dead airman, said an uncle who was an Army colonel asked around for the family about what happened.

"He told us he thought the Air Force had been looking for a bomb," Glenn Terry said.

Questions still remain about why the Air Force kept civilians away for 36 hours, why it didn't find Terry when civilians with the same maps did, why documents are censored three decades after the crash and why officials declined to clarify testimony that suggests a bomb was in the accident.

"All we really know was that the Air Force seemed a whole lot more interested in the wreckage than they were in finding my brother," Glenn Terry said.

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