Sacramento, CA Jet Crashes Into Ice Cream Parlor, Sep 1972
HORROR OF PLANE CRASH DESCRIBED.
Sacramento (AP) -- "It took one wall where the 17 kids were and just pushed it," one witness gasped after a burning plane slashed into an ice cream parlor jammed with children and their parents, killing 22 persons.
Authorities said one entire family of five died in the crash Sunday along with 12 children. Twenty-six others -- mostly children -- were injured when the privately owned F86 jet catapulted into the ice cream parlor from Sacramento's Executive Airport after participating in an air show. The plane had been converted to civilian use.
Witnesses said the plane appeared to lose power in the takeoff. It crashed on an old levee barrier at the end of the runway and hurtled across a four-lane highway.
The craft burst into flames about the time it hit three autos parked by the front entrance to the ice cream parlor. Two of the autos were rammed with the burning plane through the front of the building.
Twenty of the dead were tentatively identified as customers in the store. Two others had been seated in one of the autos crushed by the jet.
CHRISTI KIEHN, 12, of Stockton, Calif., was in FARRELL'S with her parents, four brothers and sisters and two neighbor children -- twin 3 1/2 year olds, KERRI and KRISTI FRANCIS.
She grabbed KERRI, crawled over two tables and pushed her into the arms of a man standing by a window. "Then I climbed out myself through a little bitty hole," she said.
Coroner GEORGE NIELSEN said some identifications might be delayed because the finger-prints of children usually aren't on file.
He said he had few calls from parents, possibly because some of the parents were among the hospitalized.
The pilot was identified as RICHARD BINGHAM, 36, of Novato, Calif., general manager of Spectrum Air, a corporation controlled by WILLIAM PENN PATRICK, a prominent cosmetics manufacturer.
BINGHAM was listed in satisfactory condition with fractures at Sacramento Medical Center.
A witness said a man with a pair of wire cutters ran to the blue and gold jet -- risking the flames -- and cut the pilot loose.
The witness told newsmen the pilot was crying and saying over and over again, "I'm sorry!! I'm sorry!!"
All of Sacramento's publicly and privately owned ambulances were called to the scene as rescue workers began dragging bodies from the flaming building.
A makeshift coroner's office was set up in the parking lot beside the building.
Heat from the crash charred paint on parked automobiles 60 feet away. The impact knocked over mannequins in windows at the other end of the block.
Witnesses gave contradictory accounts of when the fire started, but several said that the wings -- which contain the fuel tanks -- were severed from the rest of the craft as it roared toward the ice cream parlor.
There was no immediate comment from the National Transportation Safety Board, which sent investigators to the scene.
Store manager DICK KOSSAC said every table was filled at the time of the crash.
All of the other stores in the plush shopping center were closed or had just one or two persons each inside.