Duarte, CA Jetliner - Military Jet Crash, Jun 1971
LA Jetliner, Fighter Crash In Air; 50 Die
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A jetliner carrying 49 persons cartwheeled "like a shooting star" into a mountain region and exploded after a collision with a Marine jet fighter. The only known survivor was one of the two crewmen aboard the military plane.
The Sunday night crash of the Hughes Air West DC9 was the worst civilian plane disaster in California history. And it was the first crash in the United States of a scheduled airliner in more than a year.
The radar interception officer of the Marine F4 Phantom jet parachuted to safety after the in-flight collision east of here.
He was the only reported survivor, but a helicopter pilot later reported sighting a parachute which he said he believed to be that of the pilot of the F4. It was sighted near the wreck of the fighter plane.
Ed Spruill, a county fire battalion chief who spent the night on the mountain, said the survivor told him the naval plane saw the other craft and attempted an evasive maneuver but it was too late.
Nine bodies were spotted from helicopters in the wreckage of the twin-engine airliner, which crashed into a deep gorge in two pieces and was still smoldering hours after the disaster.
Wreckage was spread over a mile-square, tree-studded area.
Fire officials and sheriff's deputies who flew over the wreckage before darkness fell said they were convinced no one aboard the DC9 could have survived.
A thick fog prevented sheriff's search and rescue teams from climbing down a cliff to the airliner or reaching the fighter during the night.
A sheriff's spokesman said the terrain "rugged beyond belief just to hike" requires use of ropes to climb down steep cliffs to the crash site.
Most Rugged Area.
"It may take two or three days to get all the bodies out," said Dr. James Kono of the Los Angeles County coroner's office. All the bodies will have to be brought out by helicopter in separate baskets, he said, because the "closest we can land the helicopter is 800 yards from the crash scene."
Because of night and morning fog, the airlift might not start until about noon, Kono said.
The crash occurred over the mountainous Van Tassel Canyon area of Angeles National Forest. Authorities described the region "the most rugged area in Los Angeles County and perhaps in California."
The Air West airliner, Flight 706 carrying 46 passengers and a five-man crew, had taken off from Los Angeles International Airport only 18 minutes before the collision. It was en route to Salt Lake City, Boise and Lewiston, Idaho, and Pasco, Wash.
The F4 was flying from Fallon Air Force Base in Nevada to its home base at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station near suburban Santa Ana.
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