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


Could have been me

I knew one of the student navigators on this flight. His name was Danny Bader. We met in OTS (Officer Training School) and both went through Basic Navigator Training at Mather. Then, our paths parted. I went off to Texas to specialize in B-52Ds, and Danny stayed at Mather to learn all about B-52Gs. We thought he was lucky, because the G-model is much newer that the D-model and in many ways a better plane. Although, in some ways the D-model was better.

If things had been different, that could have been me on that plane instead of him. Now, almost 30 years later, I still remember Danny.

He was slender. He had a thin little mustache that people teased him about. He would make a face and smile. He was serious about his studies, but had a good sense of humor. He was well-liked and respected. He was just 25. I know he was looking to get married and start a family. And then, suddenly, it ended.

May God bless them all.

thank you

Thank you Bea I read your story and I was touched you remembered, it means so much to those of us who will never forget that day! My father has missed my whole life, I am now older than he was when he passed away. He never knew my children and they unfortunately will never know him except in pictures and stories we tell. Thank You again for remembering all of them!

I lived -They Died

I lived in the path of those jets. I lived on our ranch that bordered Mayhew and Bradshaw. I was in our home on Mayhew. I was making my parent's bed. I heard the eerie cry from the engines as the captain tried over and over to restart the engines. It made me look out the window.

I looked out across the field and I saw the plane barely miss the tops of the telephone poles. I stared in terror at what I realized was a plane coming directly at me and it was going to crash. I was frozen with disbelief. Then what I saw was the most horrific sight I have ever seen.

The Captain and crew MUST have decided to spare lives and as soon as he cleared all homes he abruptly turned the wing into the ground. It was a strong turn and the wing ripped off. The plane dug deep into the field in a ball of fire tall as the trees around the area. It covered the field and road. Black smoke was making a wall that was unable to see through.

My dear friend Jeff Barmby's Horse came running out of the smoke screaming and it was on fire. I screamed at my sister to call my parents before the lines burned down. We got through and my dad began the fight to get through to us. The roads were blocked in both directions. The fire department couldn't get there because of the onlookers. People were getting out of their cars and standing in our field looking.

Suddenly I saw my mom's truck come barreling through the smoke as my dad raced home. When he got home he took the tractor and some equipment to help in the fire fight. We had hay in the field and some of it caught fire. Then the fight turned to the people that had decided to get a closer look and come through our field. People had actually packed picnic baskets to come and watch. They were stampeding our cattle.

Our neighbors and my dad went to getting all of them back. My dad had to pull up blackberry vines with the loader and cover the fences to help keep them out. All I could think was about those men in the plane and their families. I couldn't understand how those people could be so cold.

It has been 29 years since then and I still see it as vivid today as then. I still cry at Christmas for the families that had to live without them so I could live. I still honor them even though I didn't even know their names until I read this today. I love them and thank them for the sacrifice they gave for me.

Thank You for posting this article. It means a great deal to me. Merry Christmas! Bea

This was an awful accident.

This was an awful accident. I was one of the maintance crew why serviced the plane prior to the take off. I was playing cards in a friends room, when I saw all the smoke. To this day, I still have that feeling in the pit of my stomache.

The article should have

The article should have stated the bomber was carrying 290,000 pounds of fuel, not gallons