Mather Air Force Base, CA B-52G Bomber Crash, Dec 1982


United Press International.
Nine crewmen on a B-52G bomber died in a fiery crash in a muddy California pasture near a California airbase.
The pilots of the fuel-laden Stratofortress bomber managed to steer it away from buildings, gasoline pumps and busy roads, witnesses said.
The bomber and another one that had taken off 10 seconds earlier were practicing quick-takeoff maneuvers Thursday when it went down about 1 1/2 miles from Mather Air Force Base, officials say.
The airplane, carrying 290,000 gallons of fuel, blew up "like a napalm bomb" and made a fireball about 250 feet in diameter, witnesses said.
It left a 400-yard-long swath of burning debris, killed at least three horses and four people had to be treated for smoke inhalation.
"They were awful close, about 10 seconds apart," Jim Carver, a contractor whose office is a quarter-mile away, said of the planes. "He might have veered trying to get out of the end of the turbulence" caused by the leading bomber.
"The fireball was 200 or 300 feet in diameter," he said. "It was all fuel. If it had been bombs, we wouldn't be here to tell about it."
Carver and other witnesses said by banking right at the last moment, the pilot appeared to be trying to avoid nearby buildings and gasoline pumps. His huge craft also missed roads busy with morning traffic, coming down about 100 feet from a farm house, barns and sheds.
"I heard the engine roar really loud," said Richard Nide, who was riding a garbage truck about 400 yards away from the crash. "He looked like he was going to go off to the left. Then he banked hard right and the right wing clipped the ground and exploded."
"It looked like he was trying to pull out of it. It was great ball of fire and I could feel the heat all the way to my window. It scared the holy hell out of me."
Both planes had left the runway in a low-level training procedure called "Minimum Interval Take Off."
"MITO takeoffs are used when you want to get airborne in a hurry -- something less than a minute," Lt. Col. Mike Edwards, operations officer for the 441st Bomber Squadron, explained after the crash 10 miles east of the Capitol.
He declined to speculate on the cause of the crash. Air Force investigators convened a board of inquiry within hours of the crash.
No nuclear weapons were aboard the plane, a modified version of a 20-year-old model due for fitting with the air-launched Cruise missile. Sixteen B-52G's each carrying 12 Cruises, became operational Thursday at Griffiss Air Force Base, near Rome, N.Y., the Air Force said.
The victims were identified as:
Maj. JAMES H. YORK, 43, South Bend, Ind., the aircraft commander.
Capt. LYLE A. BRUNNER, 32, Florence, Mont., a bombardier instructor.
Capt. DENNIS E. DAVIS, Hililsboro, Ore., a navigator.
Master Sgt. GERE E. LeFEVER, 42, Conestoga, Pa., an aircraft gunner.
2nd Lt. SCOTT A. SEMMEL, 23, Levittown, Pa., a student co-pilot.
2nd Lt. PETER M. RILEY, Woonsocket, R. I., a sudent co-pilot.
2nd Lt. RICHARD P. ROBESON, JR., 27, Freeport, Ill., a student navigator.
2nd Lt. BENJAMIN C. BERNDT, 24, Norwalk, Conn., a student navigator.
2nd Lt. DANIEL N. BADER, 25, Salt Lake City, Utah, a student navigator.
Intended for replacement by the B-1B bomber, B-52s have been used since the 1950s and often are older than the pilots who fly them.

Altoona Mirror Pennsylvania 1982-12-17


B-52 Crash 16DEC82

I played soccer in High School with Scott Semmel; we parted in 1976 I believe. He went to the AF Academy, I went to Theology School in Philly. I joined the AF in 1980 as a Crypto Linguist flying EC-130s with Compass Call out of Davis Monthan AFB. During orientation in June 82 I sat next to a young pup by the name of Lt. Ford. We got to talking and discovered that he and Scott were roommates at the Academy - wow, small world. I'll never forget his pale face when he came into my office on Dec. 17th, 1982 around 0900 and told me that Scott had been on board the Buff that crashed at Mather.
In denial, I insisted he was wrong and I would call Mather AFB myself, - which I did, and they confirmed. I was young, I was stunned. These things don't happen to us, they happen to old guys who take chances. It was the first of other identical announcements that I would hear about friends "going down in flames". Scott was a pragmatic young man, an Eagle Scout, a straight 'A' student with a dry sense of humor.

Everyone on that plane had great potential and lifetime ahead of them. But I've never sat in mission planning before a flight and heard anyone say, "Hey, this is just to dangerous, I don't want to do this anymore!" Back then our battle cry was "Kill a Commie for Mommy!" And many of them bit the big one doing the job they loved and many of their names are silently engraved on memorials that the general pubic will never see. They are the silent warriors of the Cold War. I knew Scott, and Scott was sold out to anything he did. I'll never forget him. I plan to visit his grave site in Newtown, PA on 16DEC2017, the 35th anniversary of his death. Young men like Scott provoked me to raise my own kids to serve others and their country before they serve themselves. And they did just that; between my two sons and daughter, they have over 8 tours in Afghanistan and the Middle East. And so, the spirit of Scott Semmel lives on!!!

Paul Stonehouse
AF Veteran

South of jackson rd, on

South of jackson rd, on Mayhew, next to the old gravel pit.


Is there a way for you to post them?

B-52 crash Mather

I have a copy of the Sacramento Bee that has photos
copy at the Travis AFB Heritage Center

B-52G Crash after MITO from Mather, CA

I grew up near the base and was at the SAM site off of Florin Road with my dad at the time. That is where people go to fly radio control aircraft. We saw the plane go down and burn, but I do not remember where it went down, exactly. I would like to visit the crash site. Can you help guide me to where it crashed? I seem to recall that it crashed south west of the runway. Thank you in advance.

Mather: Awful Day

I was running the 4AF McClellan AFB MARS Net that day, supporting a Mather AFB MARS team providing "Santa Claus" messages to an elementary school just west of Mather. "BREAKOFF. CLOSE NET. MAYDAY TRAFFIC FOLLOWS." Came from Navy LtCdr David Minton, who was located about 500 meters north of the main crash site. From my window at McClellan, I could see an awful black smoke column reaching up far into the sky. David took the Mather comm van from the school to the incident command post, and for the next several hours, provided the only link from the crash site to the command post at Mather AFB, as telephone lines had been burned and there were no cell phones at the time. The site was just outside the Land Mobile Radio range of Mather, and not distant enough to be reached by other systems then in use.

I also remember that day very

I also remember that day very well. I was on the search and recovery team that went and picked up those poor souls from that dreadful field. I was only 24 years old...after that day I aged tremendously. A few of us were on the front page of the Sacramento Bee the next day. I was the blonde skinny SSgt in front carrying that poor soul to the coroner's vehicle in the picture. If anybody has that photo or knows where I can get it...I would appreciate it.

sad memories

I worked in the sheet metal shop which had a good view of the flight line. Guess I tried to forget the sight that day until someone at church today asked me, "what kind of aircraft did I work on at Mather"? I could not fully answer his question for the lump in my throat, holding back tears. I remember counting other MITO take-offs which were usually 10 seconds apart. However, that day I only counted 8 seconds. I clearly saw the second aircraft struggle to get some clean air, then turn right banking into the ground. Guess some things you really never forget. I hope God played a part in the families recovery. We all prayed for the families of those on board.

Dan Bader

Dear Chris, I am Dan Bader's sister. I was watching about the helecopter crash at Elgin. Dan is never far from my mind, but I felt so much sorrow for the families today. I was touched by your comment and so happy others have fond memories of Dan. I hope your life has been wonderful!
Jane Bader Bugni

Thank you Bea that meant a

Thank you Bea that meant a lot to me. I wish I met my grand father but from the stories they told of him he sounds like one of the greatest men that ever lived