Bakersfield, CA (near) Transport Plane Crash, Dec 1944


Bakersfield (Kern Co.), Dec. 5. -- An army air pilot
losing his way in a storm was blamed today for the crash of a Fresno bound Lockheed Lodestar transport plane late Friday, killing its nine occupants.
The probable cause was assigned by local fliers on the basis of the condition of wreckage of the ship sighted yesterday by Frank Furlong, Fresno Civil Air Patrol pilot, one of the participants in a widespread search.
The bodies of the crash victims were brought to Bakersfield last night by army ground parties and are in the Greenlawn Mortuary.
Major Jay Montgomery, commander of the Kern County Airport sub base of Hammer Field, today announced the dead as:
Pilot, First Lieutenant HOBART D. SIMPSON, son of Hobart Simpson, 3741 Schofield Street, Indianapolis, Ind.
Copilot, Second Lieutenant JIMMIE E. HOCH, son of Harry Hoch, Route 9, Box 296A, San Antonio, Tex.
Navigator, Second Lieutenant CLARENCE W. DeGROFF, son of Mrs. Mahala Swan, 1105 Magnolia Avenue, Ontario, Calif.
Navigator, Flight Officer MICHAEL D. PAVICH, son of Mrs. Stella Pavich, 427 Twentieth Street, Santa Monica, Calif.
Navigator, Second Lieutenant LOUIS J. HOEKSTRA, son of John L. Hoekstra, Route 2, Box 146, Chicago Heights, Ill.
Navigator, Second Lieutenant JAMES F. APPLEWHITE, wife, Mrs. James Applewhite, Bloomington, Ind.
Flight engineer, Sergeant IRA F. RATLIFF son of Mrs. Hannah Ratliff, Route 9, Box 450, Phoenix, Ariz.
Passenger, Flight Officer OTTO F. ILLIAS, son of Alfred Illias, 524 1/2 Gates Street, San Francisco.
Passenger, Private First Class WALTER H. DENK, son of Henry C. Denk, 1028 Ventura, Albany, Calif.
Montgomery said the army transport was one of a type of two engine twin tail planes used for navigational training at such air force navigation schools as that at Hondo, Tex., the plane's home field.
It was enroute to Hammer Field, Fresno. Friday afternoon at 5:30 o'clock when it encountered storm conditions in the vicinity of Bakersfield, and sent a radio message requesting permission to land in Bakersfield and asking a clearance of the radio range. Permission was granted and the range was cleared.
The plane's original message said it was flying at 13,000 feet and a few minutes later it reported it had descended to 8,000 and was letting down to 5,000. This message was the last received.
When the plane made no further report, all facilities available for a search were mobilized. Planes of the Army Air Forces from bases in Kern County, ground searchers from the army and peace officer groups and ships of the Civil Air Patrol took part under the plans announced last month for combined army, navy and civilian participation.
The wreckage first was sighted by Furlong at an elevation of 4,300 feet on the rugged north slope of Bear Mountain, a landmark of southern Kern County.
Montgomery sent his operations officer, Captain Harris B. Cargill, on a flight to verify the wreckage was that of a plane. On receiving Cargill's report, the sub base commander headed the ground party which went to bring back the bodies and take charge of the wreckage.
The officer said all of the plane occupants had been killed instantly. There was no explosion. The fuselage burned, but the wings did not. There was no snow.
The condition of the wreckage was described as what could be expected from the ship striking the mountain in an attempt to land.
Montgomery said an investigation will be made before the cause of the accident is determined officially.

Frank Furlong, Fresno Civilian Air Patrol pilot, who originally discovered the wreckage yesterday,
said the plane apparently had run nearly out of gas when it smashed against the north side of Bear Mountain.
"A fire had occurred but there could have been little gas in the plane because the grass and shrubbery about showed only small signs of burning," Furlong pointed out.
"The position of the wreckage showed the plane must have been headed almost directly toward Bakersfield when the crash occurred."
The Fresno pilot who flew as low as 100 feet in an effort to discover any possible survivors, said he made positive identification by the tail assembly and the dual rudders.
"It so happened both were almost intact and military authorities agreed there could be no reasonable doubt as to the type of plane," Furlong declared.
"When I first sighted the plane, and began dropping as fast as I dared, I thought I saw identification numbers but it turned out to be only yellow paint still visible although the fuselage was disintegrated."
"The wings were about two thirds cracked and were lying about 100 feet apart."
Furlong said he circled the wreckage for 45 minutes and there could be no doubt no life remained.
"I saw what looked very much like mangled bodies but I am not absolutely certain on this point," he declared.
Furlong said he spent so much time at the scene in order to make a map of the location. He said he noticed a trail leading to the spot and followed it down in order to facilitate the work of the rescue party.
Furlong was flying with Lieutenant Jim Hanson of Long Beach, a member of the Civil Air Patrol unit, when the wreckage was sighted from 5,000 feet elevation.
James Forkner was the only other Fresno civilian pilot taking part in the search. He was investigating another area when the discovery was made by Furlong.

The Fresno Bee Republican California 1944-12-05