Fairfield-Suisun Air Base, CA Bomber Crash, Aug 1950



Fairfield-Suisun Air Base, Calif., Aug. 7. -- (UP) --
A gaping crater and a tangle of blackened wreckage today marked the spot where an air force B-29 Superfortress crashed and exploded a cargo of bombs and high-test gasoline, killing 19 persons and injuring 60.
The scene was only 100 feet from a trailer village where 150 enlisted men stationed at this base and their families made their homes. Most of them were lucky enough to escape in the 10 minutes that elapsed between the crash and the explosion.
Ten of the 20 men aboard the ship were killed and two others were missing and presumed dead. The other seven dead, and most of the injured, were rescue workers.
Among the dead was Brig. Gen. ROBERT F. TRAVIS, 46, a hero of World War II and commander of the base.
The accident took place shortly after the plane took off at 11:30 p.m. (PDT) Saturday on a routine training flight. Within minutes, the plane reported trouble with the propellers and the landing gear.
Then the big four-engined plane smashed into the ground and broke into flames. The men aboard the plane began struggling to get out, some helping the injured to leave.
From a distance, the screams of sirens from crash wagons and fire trucks could be heard. The noise of the bomber coming down had wakened many residents of the trailer village. When the crash came, many fled their trailers and bolted in panic toward a nearby gate.
Sgt. R. H. Lewis, of Clay, Kan., who lived in the trailer camp, said he and his wife had just come home and were watching the plane.
"It sort of glided onto the ground, rather than crashed," he said. "I was about 100 feet away. It knocked me down. When I came to, it was all over the place."
"I got up and picked up one of the men from the plane. He walked around in a state of shock. I picked up a woman who had her foot and leg blown off at the ankle and took her to an ambulance."
As air force police and others guided many residents to the gate and went from trailer to trailer to order everyone to leave the area the plane exploded with a blast that knocked everyone within a 50-yard radius to the ground.
Flaming gasoline and debris rained down over a 200-yard circle, while screams of pain went up from those burned by droplets of gasoline. People ran blindly, stumbled, picked themselves up again. It reminded one witness of a "crazy Indian dance around a campfire."

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