Miramar Naval Air Station, CA Jet Fighter Crashes Into Hangar, Dec 1969
11 DIE AS JET HITS HANGAR.
14 INJURED IN CRASH OF NAVY PLANE.
San Diego, Calif. -- Eleven persons were killed and 14 others injured Monday when a pilotless jet fighter crashed into a hangar at Miramar Naval Air Station.
The Navy said the pilot of the F-8 crusader jet, LT. CYRUS M. RIDDELL, 27, ejected from the plane 1 mile away from the crash site after the jet "flamed-out." (A flame out is a failure of the jet's engine due to an interruption of its fuel supply or faulty combustion.)
The plane smashed through the north doors of the repair hangar and exploded in flames. The Navy said at least $25 million damage was caused to the huge structure and the planes inside.
Sheets of flame shot 150 feet skyward, then the area was engulfed in black smoke as the 45,000 pound jet hit at 250 miles per hour and skidded into two F-4 Phantom jets, sending fuel spewing in all directions.
Men ran yelling as the ejection seats of six other jet planes exploded. One seat tore a hole in the roof. The 3,000-gallon fuel tanks of the other jets, however, did not catch fire.
An eyewitness, John Lee, 23, aviation machinist's mate, said, "I was walking out of the hangar and I saw these two F-8s close together. I thought they were going to buzz the hangar and then I thought there would be a mid-air collision.
"Then one of them sort of floated in the air, nosed off to the right and then I saw one big fireball in the hangar."
"People were running out an instant later, screaming."
An estimated 60 persons were inside the structure.
One of the men inside the acre-size hangar, connected to another by a neck of offices, said that when he heard the roar of the approaching plane, "I thought it was a test ... then it felt like someone had me by the seat of the pants and was lifting me out of the hangar."
Said WAYNE SPENCER, 24, a sailor from Springfield, Mass., "I put my hands over my ears, the noise was so loud. I thought the Phantoms exploded ... it knocked everybody down."
Fire trucks and ambulances arrived almost immediately. Navy helicopters also flew injured and burned men to San Diego, 15 miles to the southeast, after emergency treatment at the base dispensary.
RIDDELL, who escaped without a scratch, said he ejected at 400 feet altitude because the oil pressure "had gone down dangerously low."
Asked if he could have kept the aircraft from crashing in such a populated area, RIDDELL said, "I can't talk about that," and walked away.
An investigation of the crash, described as the worst disaster in San Diego County's history, was ordered.
The hangar, one of three on the base, is headquarters for the Navy's jet VF-121 squadron known as The Pacemakers. It has been shared by several fighter squadrons.
Wisconsin State Journal Madison 1969-12-23
Listing Of Fatalities.
JOHN HUNTER, 23, Vista, Caifornia, Aviation Electrician Mate 3C.
CHRISTOPHER HUNTER, 20, brother of JOHN, Vista, California, Airman Apprentice.
JOE A. HASTINGS, 37, Master Chief Aviation Maintenance Administration Man.
DONALD EDWARD McGEE, San Diego, California, Aviation Structural Mechanic 3C.
JOHN R. CHAMPION, San Diego, California, Chief Warrant Officer Second.
RALPH A. LITTLE, New York City, Aviation Electronics Technician 3C.
THOMAS P. LOUGHRIGE, Escondido, Aviation Electricians Mate 2C.
MICHAEL C. BARRACK, Aviation Metalsmith 3C.
GEORGE C. KOLBY, Senior Chief Aviation Metalsmith.
GERALD D. LEASK, San Diego, California, Aviation Fire Control Technician.
KENNETH A HECHT, 25, San Diego, California, civilian electrician from North Island Naval Air Rework Facility.
Listing of Injuried:
KENNETH D. FUNK, Aviation Machinist's Mate 2C.
Lt. Cmdr. WILLIAM F. EMERY, San Diego.
SANK THOMAS, San Diego, Aviation Structural Mechanic 1C.
RICHARD C. BONILLA, San Diego, Aviation Electronics Technician 1C.
LEROY K. WHITE, Escondido, Aviation Fire Control Technician.
ENRICO BERNABE, San Diego, Aviation Machinist Mate 2C.
TIMOTHY F. WEYER, Albuquerque, N.M., Airman.
FORREST R. ANDERSON, Riverside, Calif., Aviation Structural Mech. 2C.
ROBERT L. MOSLEY, Madisonville, Texas, Aviation Structural Mechanical Hydraulic Mechanic.