Hamilton AF Base, CA Transport Plane Crashes, May 1970


Hamilton Air Force Base (AP) -- Capt. GEORGE BURKE, 28, sole survivor of a military plane crash in which 13 persons died, was under intensive care for burns today at Fort Sam Houston Hospital, San Antonio, Tex.
Twelve Air Force men and an Army specialist died when the twin-engine transport crashed Monday into a fog-covered hillside shortly after taking off from here.
Air base officials said there was no warnings from the pilot that the craft, bound for Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, Wash., was in trouble.
When the plane disappeared from the radar screen, it passed between two hills, skidded along a meadow, for 100 yards and crashed into a cluster of trees.
Nearly an hour later, JOHN DAVIEAU, a ranch foreman, found the smoking plane while on a cattle check.
Wreckage was scattered. "It was a grisly sight," said a witness.
The dead were identified as:
Maj. ROBERT L. ROBINSON, JR., pilot, Alameda Air Force Station, Santa Clara County.
Col. ELDRIDGE G. SHELTON, JR., co-pilot, 50, Hamilton AFB.
ROBERT G. WARD, 36, Hamilton AFB.
Capt. RALPH C. KNOWLES, 26, San Francisco.
HARVEY C. HEICHEL, 42, Hamilton AFB.
KENNETH L. YARGER, 41, Hamilton AFB.
FRED L. ADAMS, 49, Hamilton AFB.
ALBERT J. McCLOUD, 38, Novato.
ENRIQUE R. FERRER, JR., 43, Hamilton AFB.
ROBERT P. PRINCE, 31, Hamilton AFB.
Army Spec. 4 DAVID J. COOPER, Spokane.
JULIUS RYLUND, 39, Travis AFB and

Press-Telegram Long Beach California 1970-05-05


May 1970 T-29 aircraft accident.

I was the air traffic controller who was talking to the aircraft at the time of the crash. I've tried to find out what happened to captain Burke when I got back from SEA but to no avail. About 1974 I attended an aircraft accident investigation board. I've not been able to get this crash out of my mind to this day. These were people from our base. I was in base ops with them just before they boarded the plane. I didn't know any of them personally but I can still see them starting to walk out with some baggage to the plane. I wondered why the army guy? I went back into the RAPCON sat down in departure control got a cup of coffee and a cigarette and waited for tower to hand the departure over to me. All went well at first. He took off runway 30 then started to turn to the right. I called him but got no response except a long squelch brake which later turned out to be a transmission I've tried to forget. I called him many times over and over but I knew what happened. He went right into the eucalyptus trees about 8 miles north. I can still see the radar target stop at the hill side where on windy days we could see the trees on radar due to their movement. I traced his track with a grease pencil. I continued calling him until tower could see smoke coming out of the fog. I was relieved of my position and was told to go to the flight surgeon. After talking to the Dr and taking a blood test I was sent back to work. I knew I did nothing wrong but you never really know who Is going to get part of the blame. Hamilton was at times a very busy airport and the stress could get to you but I was a very calm 20 year old confident controller. I think I was an above average controller as well. I once had a pilot come into the rapcon and thank me for a final approach where he didn't see the runway until he almost touched down. But then a few days later I was walking to work a 2 trucks passed me with parts of the plane on them. Large parts. The tail and wings and engines. All torn up burnt and mangled. My knees got weak and it finally hit me. My involvement. It was some trying times. I got orders to Vietnam soon after but were changed to Korat Thailand. There were other accidents but this T29, watching it go into the trees has haunted me ever since. I got out of the Air Force in 1972. I could never find out anything about the crash or capt Burke. After all these years to see this information on the internet is interesting.

My Uncle Albert John McCloud

Hi Andrew, Yes my Uncle Albert John McCloud is buried in the Santa Clara Cemetary and he is the person who was killed in the plane crash on May 4 1970

Thank you G Burke

I thank you the most for all you have done. The only words I have for you, is thank you so much for all that you have done here to support everyone and yourself. I will buy your books and read them. Much love and hugs.
Dad (Robert G. Ward), I miss you.
Pam Ward-Reagan
[email protected]
I would love to converse a bit if it's not too painful for you G. Burke

Robert G. Ward

I discovered these posts today as I weep missing my dad very much. It still amazes me the intensity of grief I have. I want to thank everyone who contributed to these posts as well as George Burke the survivor. I thank you the most for all you have done. The only words I have for you, is thank you so much for all that you have done here to support everyone and yourself. I will buy your books and read them. Much love and hugs.
Dad, I miss you.
Pam Ward-Reagan

Rick Ferrer

Rick was my father. If you get this email, please let me know we are doing a Memorial at the Crash site in 2014 in conjunction with the Parks Service.

Elaine Ferrer Ramirez
[email protected]

Robert L Robinson

Daryl G Robinson,
I have been researching a Robert L Robinson Jr born in Missouri around 1931, Vietnam veteran, for our veterans history records. Believe his mother was Helen. Could you contact me I believe the Robert I'm looking for may be your father. I would like to confirm one way or the other.
Thank You, Sherry

Plane crash 5/04/70

Spec. 4 David James Reed Cooper was my brother. He had just had surgery on his right leg due to injures received in VetNam. He had caught that flight to come home in convalescence leave. He was 20 years old.
He had not told us he was coming home as he got great delight in just showing up unexpected as a surprise. My Dad was working on that morning and crossed off that incoming flight not knowing David was on it.
Had David survived the crash he would not have been able to get out as he had a full leg cast on his right leg and was on crutches. I was privileged to meet Capt. Burk on 12/27/2012.
Finding out he not only survived the crash but against all odds lived and made his life great has made a great difference in my life. Capt.Burk aanswered the questions I had about that day. My PTS has been dramatically reduced and I have hope it will now be healed.
Sheryl Cooper Bible. 1/08/2013

Your letter about crash 5/4/1970

My name is Sheryl Bible. I am the youngest sister of Army Spec 4 David James Reed Cooper. I have that day in my memory as if it happened this morning. I never really understood what happened untill 9/11/2001 as I watched the airliners fly into the twin towers. I have PTS really bad now.

Thank you for your letter. It lets me know that someone did care other than just my family. He had a huge funeral with over 700 attendeing. I'm sure a lot of those there were there as support not as friends of my brother.

Thanks , Sheryl Cooper Bible

T-29 crash

My heart goes out to all the people who died on that day...I knew the flt. engineer,Enrique Ferrer...I was stationed at Hamilton AFB the previous year (1969)...I was sent to Korea for a 13 month tour...While there,,,my Mom sent me a news paper clipping of the crash...At the time I did not know who had died if anybody at all,,, until I came back to state side...while stationed at HAFB we serviced the small fleet of T-29's @ other acft.

Is Sgt McCloud buried in Santa Clara Mission Cemetery?

I used to walk the Santa Clara cemetery to read the stones, and found a Sgt McCloud with a VA headstone in there. Is this where he's buried? It's very close to where a friend of mine is buried, who was KIA'd in VN. Wondered if the same person?