Duarte, CA Jetliner - Military Jet Crash, Jun 1971
49 Die As Marine Fighter Crashes Air West Jetliner
By John Williams
DUARTE, Calif. (UPI) -- An Air West DC9 jetliner disintegrated so utterly after colliding with an F4 Phantom jet and crashing into a mountain that no sizeable[sic] portion may ever be found, a federal investigator said Monday.
All 49 persons aboard the passenger plane, including two infants and five crew members, were killed. The pilot of the Marine fighter-bomber also died but his radarman survived and was in good condition.
The two aircraft collided at 12,000 feet above the San Gabriel range at 6:11 p. m. PDT Sunday on the flight path that scores of planes fly daily on eastbound routes from Los Angeles International Airport which the DC9 had left 10 minutes earlier en route to Salt Lake City.
The Phantom, the marine's fastest and highest flying fighter-bomber with a top speed in excess of 1,600 miles an hour, was returning to its home base at El Toro Marine Air Station after a routine training flight from Fallon AFB, Nev.
A 12-man team of the National Transportation Safety Board flew to the scene from Washington. Chief investigator George Baker said preliminary reports indicated small pieces of wreckage were strewn over miles of rugged terrain at the 3,000 foot level of Mt. Bliss north of Azusa.
"We are going to look into everything that will help us determine why those two planes were in that same piece of air space at the same time," Baker said.
"We are going to check all the ingredients â€“ air speed, altitude, altitude[sic] and so forth."
A heavy fog clinging to the mountains Monday hampered fire department and sherif's[sic] helicopters in ferrying out bodies to a makeshift morgue set up in two tents on the grass of a city park in wund[sic] parties reached the Stone Cabin Flats area where some authorities believed the main part of the plane had crashed but found only small bits of metal. Part of the tail section was located two miles south.
The Phantom fuselage was in Fish Canyon but the body of the pilot, who ejected but was considered almost certain to have died, was not immediately found.
An empty yellow parachute was found on a brush covered hillside but their was no trace of the missing pilot.
The survivor, Marine Lt. CHRISTOPHER E. SCHIESS, 24, Salem, Ore., parachuted and was treated for minor injuries at a Duarte hospital. He declined to talk with sherif's[sic] deputies about what happened.
The Federal Aviation Administration said controllers had the Air West plane on their radarscope "but at no time was the Marine jet observed."
A recorder which the DC9 carried was being sought but it was doubted whether the airliner crew had any warning of the impending collision.
Sheriff's deputies said observers on the ground reported the F4 ripped into the side of the DC9, opening a gaping hole and that "articles" came streaming out of the airliner as it seemed to "float" into the mountainside.
John Paquette, 16, whose home faces the mountains, said he was standing on his front lawn and saw the planes.
"I saw the little plane going down on fire," he said. "Then the big one just glided into the mountain. It made a boom and shook the whole house."
The Fresno Bee Republican California 1971-06-07
Photos courtesy of the excellent site
www.lostflights.org by Mike McComb
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