Paso Robles, CA B-26 Crash in Vineyard During Storm, Apr 1956
One airman was killed and two were injured Wednesday afternoon when the five man crew of a crippled B-26 bomber bailed out over the George Steinbeck ranch, approximately seven miles east of Paso Robles. The plane, a propeller-driven light bomber, developed mechanical trouble while on route from Biggs Air Force Base, El Paso, Tex., to Mather Field, near Sacramento. Biggs AFB identified the dead man as T/Sgt. Fred D. Kilby of Route 1, Wilkesboro, N.C. His parachute failed to open. Maj. John W. Fortner, pilot of the plane, suffered serious injuries and is still hospitalized in Paso Robles War Memorial District Hospital. Hospital officials said Major Fortner suffered fractured ribs and shoulder and possible lung and back injuries when he failed to clear the plane as he jumped after ordering his crew to bail out ahead of him. S/Sgt. O.J. Fazio suffered leg injuries and Captain S.W. Wigley of Oklahoma City and Lt. Robert E. Nillson of Monroe, Utah, were held in the hospital overnight for observation. The last three were released this morning. First report of the crash came from Mrs. Percy Weaver, who lives on the ranch. She heard the plane coming down out of the low, rainy overcast and saw it crash and burn in an empty field, approximately 150 yards north of old Highway 41. City and county police officials, including Chief Elmer Morehouse and Fire Chief Maynard French of Paso Robles, and Sheriff Paul Merrick, converged on the scene. Three of the men were found shortly after the crash and it was first feared the other two had failed to leave the ship. A fourth was found within an hour. The body of the dead man was spotted by a Union Oil plane and recovered by Don Wolf and Frank Volpi, members of a ground searching party. Major Fortner, the pilot, said he ran into snow and ice at flying altitude and became thoroughly lost when his radio compass failed. He ordered the crew to bail out when the gas supply became dangerously low. Interviewed at the hospital Wednesday night, Captain Wigley said, "I'm tickled to death to be on the ground. All I can say is that the good Lord must have been looking out for me." He said the order to abandon ship came suddenly. "Yes, it happened real sudden. All at once we got the bail out signal and I didn't waste any time hitting the silk," he said.