Miramar Naval Air Station, CA Jet Fighter Crashes Into Hangar, Dec 1969



San Diego, Calif. -- Eleven persons were killed and 14 others injured Monday when a pilotless jet fighter crashed into a hangar at Miramar Naval Air Station.
The Navy said the pilot of the F-8 crusader jet, LT. CYRUS M. RIDDELL, 27, ejected from the plane 1 mile away from the crash site after the jet "flamed-out." (A flame out is a failure of the jet's engine due to an interruption of its fuel supply or faulty combustion.)
The plane smashed through the north doors of the repair hangar and exploded in flames. The Navy said at least $25 million damage was caused to the huge structure and the planes inside.
Sheets of flame shot 150 feet skyward, then the area was engulfed in black smoke as the 45,000 pound jet hit at 250 miles per hour and skidded into two F-4 Phantom jets, sending fuel spewing in all directions.
Men ran yelling as the ejection seats of six other jet planes exploded. One seat tore a hole in the roof. The 3,000-gallon fuel tanks of the other jets, however, did not catch fire.
An eyewitness, John Lee, 23, aviation machinist's mate, said, "I was walking out of the hangar and I saw these two F-8s close together. I thought they were going to buzz the hangar and then I thought there would be a mid-air collision.
"Then one of them sort of floated in the air, nosed off to the right and then I saw one big fireball in the hangar."
"People were running out an instant later, screaming."
An estimated 60 persons were inside the structure.
One of the men inside the acre-size hangar, connected to another by a neck of offices, said that when he heard the roar of the approaching plane, "I thought it was a test ... then it felt like someone had me by the seat of the pants and was lifting me out of the hangar."
Said WAYNE SPENCER, 24, a sailor from Springfield, Mass., "I put my hands over my ears, the noise was so loud. I thought the Phantoms exploded ... it knocked everybody down."
Fire trucks and ambulances arrived almost immediately. Navy helicopters also flew injured and burned men to San Diego, 15 miles to the southeast, after emergency treatment at the base dispensary.
RIDDELL, who escaped without a scratch, said he ejected at 400 feet altitude because the oil pressure "had gone down dangerously low."
Asked if he could have kept the aircraft from crashing in such a populated area, RIDDELL said, "I can't talk about that," and walked away.
An investigation of the crash, described as the worst disaster in San Diego County's history, was ordered.
The hangar, one of three on the base, is headquarters for the Navy's jet VF-121 squadron known as The Pacemakers. It has been shared by several fighter squadrons.

Wisconsin State Journal Madison 1969-12-23

Listing Of Fatalities.
JOHN HUNTER, 23, Vista, Caifornia, Aviation Electrician Mate 3C.
CHRISTOPHER HUNTER, 20, brother of JOHN, Vista, California, Airman Apprentice.
JOE A. HASTINGS, 37, Master Chief Aviation Maintenance Administration Man.
DONALD EDWARD McGEE, San Diego, California, Aviation Structural Mechanic 3C.
JOHN R. CHAMPION, San Diego, California, Chief Warrant Officer Second.
RALPH A. LITTLE, New York City, Aviation Electronics Technician 3C.
THOMAS P. LOUGHRIGE, Escondido, Aviation Electricians Mate 2C.
MICHAEL C. BARRACK, Aviation Metalsmith 3C.
GEORGE C. KOLBY, Senior Chief Aviation Metalsmith.
GERALD D. LEASK, San Diego, California, Aviation Fire Control Technician.
KENNETH A HECHT, 25, San Diego, California, civilian electrician from North Island Naval Air Rework Facility.
Listing of Injuried:
KENNETH D. FUNK, Aviation Machinist's Mate 2C.
Lt. Cmdr. WILLIAM F. EMERY, San Diego.
SANK THOMAS, San Diego, Aviation Structural Mechanic 1C.
RICHARD C. BONILLA, San Diego, Aviation Electronics Technician 1C.
LEROY K. WHITE, Escondido, Aviation Fire Control Technician.
ENRICO BERNABE, San Diego, Aviation Machinist Mate 2C.
TIMOTHY F. WEYER, Albuquerque, N.M., Airman.
FORREST R. ANDERSON, Riverside, Calif., Aviation Structural Mech. 2C.
ROBERT L. MOSLEY, Madisonville, Texas, Aviation Structural Mechanical Hydraulic Mechanic.



I worked at power plants building in 1969. It was not VF-121 but the hanger right of it. I can't remember the squadron. But I remember the site. So many brave men lost their lives....By the time I arrived. We were pulling the F4's out and I did see the whole in the roof. Everything in the hangar was shoved back. We tested engines near the flight line. If I remember right there where several aircraft lined up. If it hit 100 yards shorter much more carnage. I heard it was an hydraulic failure and he lost control and bailed out. I also heard he lost another aircraft and was grounded....

Miramar F 8 crash 1969

I was temp assigned to. vF 121 and in the AQ shop, But that morning I was about a block away when we heard the loud crash! When we saw the smoke we ran toward the hangar not knowing what to expect,, the fires were very hot and the first ejection seat went thru the roof, There was an officer (a Lt I believe, He yelled at us to stop and not go any further because the fuel tanks and some sidewinder were Hot, The emergency vehicles came in and went right by us into the hanger,,,Then the Lt ordered us to help with the firehouses,, Which we did, We saw the firemen carrying/dragging some badly burnt bodies,,

First of all, It was not the

First of all, It was not the VF 121 Hanger, it was ( I believe ) VF-21 right next to our VF-121 hanger. This episode STILL haunts every year for Christmas. It just brings up many sad memories.

I was there also and fortunate to have been unscathed

Beautiful cool December morning in San Diego. I was in VF-121 which occupied the runway side of the two bay hangar. I was walking from the flight line toward the doors of the VF-92 and VF-96 side of the hangar to meet a buddy for lunch when the rush of wind, and shadow from the silent F-8 passed by followed by the blast.
Fortunately, the casualties were lessened by two factors; it was Christmas leave season and the squadrons were allowed to have 50% of their personnel on leave, and it was lunch time and many sailors were on their way to the galley a good half mile from the hangars.
I remember that an ejection seat from one of the probably 10 F-4J's in the hangar for maintenance went through the roof of the hangar.
The response from the base fire department was amazing as they drove the crash truck right into the burning hangar.
I remember finding myself on the ground, ears ringing and in disbelief of what I had just seen. My father was badly burned in a kamikaze attack in the Pacific in WW-II and I remember thinking it could have been a repeat had it happened one minute later.
These were the same squadrons that were involved in the USS Enterprise flight deck fire as I recall, and Randy Cunningham was the lone Navy 'Ace' having downed five MIGs in VA-96.

Miramar F-8 Crash

I was standing in the door way of the hangar next to the one the plane crashed into. I in unbelief as the pilot bailed out and the plane appeared to be headed for a crash landing on the runway. As I watched the aircraft veered to the right (my left) for a second or two it was headed straight at me I froze. it then turned even sharper and disappeared behind the hangar next to mine. Within seconds there was a very large explosion and fire shot out of every opening followed by men running. As I stood there motionless an officer came over and said what are you doing standing there get one of those extinguishers and get over there. I was told when I got there to try and keep the flames from the fuel tank of one of the planes in the hangar. The firetruck had driven straight into the hangar. After that my memory is kind of fuzzy seeing the bodies of those who were burnt very very badly had quite an effect on me. I am sure that the pilot expected the f-8 to crash on the runway and must have been surprised when he heard it hit the hangar.

My dad was just telling me

My dad was just telling me about this tonight. He was in the hanger just on the other side. He said 15 died. His name is Claude C Jones Jr. He was a marine. He was an electrician working on the air craft

1969 f-8 crash Mira-Mar

I watched the whole thing from the chute coming down over the other side of the HI way and the f-8 veering off that the wingman was in . Then the pilot-less plane flew right into the hanger. I thought at the time no one in the hanger could have survived.

I am verifying that I saw the terrible accident. I will never forget it!

Dave Tribby

Chris Hunter

Laura - Chris Hunter was my natural father. I was born at Camp Pendleton in the summer of 69 and adopted shortly after. I was able to meet his mother before she died.

Miramar Naval Air Station, CA Jet Fighter Crashes Into Hangar, D

Did any of you guys know Chris or Bobby Hunter? I was a little girl when this happened and would like to know more about what happened and about my cousins. They visited with us fairly often when I was in Kindergarden and they were good guys.


45 years ago today, my husband, James Nunnery, (Disbursing Clerk) and I were in San Diego, but this was our last day there. He was at work, and the Chief said, "It's your last day....get outta here.
So my husband went into San Diego to pick up our plane tickets. We were headed to N.Y. and then he'd be assigned to the USS America. My neighbor came over to ask if I'd heard from him. Yes, he was in town. So she told me about the crash. Her husband worked in that hangar. He had been sent to another part of the base for parts at the time. We sat and cried. My husband got home, not knowing about the crash. I've always wondered about the other families since then. My heart still breaks for them.