San Luis Obispo, CA (near) Commuter Airliner and Private Plane Collide, Aug 1984


San Luis Obispo, Calif. (UPI) -- A commuter airliner and a private plane collided and exploded in flight Friday, killing all 17 people aboard and showering metal parts over a rural area near the central California coast.
The Wings West airliner, which had just taken off from San Luis Obispo on a flight to San Francisco, was carrying 13 passengers and two crew members. The smaller plane, flying out of nearby Paso Robles, had two people aboard.
There were no survivors, and several of the victims' bodies were dismembered in the fiery crash.
"It's the worst I've seen in my 22 years," said Chief Deputy ANTONY WOOD, who supervised the removal of bodies from the area of gently sloping hills, where about 50 volunteers worked until sundown searching for parts of people.
WOOD said all of the bodies were sent to a mortuary by evening. An FBI disaster identification team will begin identifying the dead Saturday, he said.
The cause of the collision which occurred shortly after 11 a.m. in good weather about 200 miles northwest of Los Angeles, was unknown. The crash also sparked a brushfire that burned about 20 acres.
Pilot ARCHIE HANSON, a 40-year pilot who flew a helicopter over the crash scene for the Sheriff's Department, said "itty, bitty bits of flesh" apparently from the smaller aircraft were scattered across nearly a mile.
"It's a tragedy of immense proportion," HANSON said, adding that the bodies of the commuter airline were "all jumbled up, decapitated and the rest."
HANSON speculated that the smaller aircraft collided with the airliner and was nearly sheared in half by the Wings West turboprop engine.
Wreckage from the scorched airliner was nearly intact, but the light plane showered pieces across a wide swath of countryside.
The crash site was between Hollister and Charro peaks, off Highway 1 between San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay, near the Cuesta College campus and the California Men's Colony prison.
Wings West, based in San Luis Obispo, is a commuter airline serving several California cities. The downed aircraft, a Beechcraft C-99, originated its flight in Santa Maria, Calif., with five passengers, and picked up eight more in San Luis Obispo.

Daily Herald Chicago Illinois 1984-08-25