Benicia, CA Commercial Airliner Crash Kills Nine, Dec 1949

Benicia CAL Plane crash wreckage 12-7-1949.jpg Benicia CAL Plane crash wreckage 12-7-1949 2.jpg



The wreckage of a DC-3 commercial airliner, missing with nine persons aboard since it took off from Oakland last night for the 90-mile flight to Sacramento, was found today on a barren hillside five miles north of Benicia.
First ground rescue parties to reach the scene said they hunted the bodies of six adults and three children, all cremated inside the battered wreckage of the fuselage.
Following is a list of the passengers reported to be aboard the ship when it left Oakland. The names were released by the Civil Aeronautics Administration, which said the information came from the California Arrow Airways, operators of the non-scheduled plane:
Pilot JAMES S. GARNETT, 32, Redondo Beach.
Co-Pilot MEADE DILLON, 38, Los Angeles.
Stewardess SUSAN DEVORE, 24, of Hollywood. She formerly lived at 977 Bay View Avenue, Oakland.
MRS. GEORGE BATCHELOR, wife of the co-owner of the airline, and her son PATRICK, 5, of Burbank.
MRS. LELAND C. KIMBALL, JR., of Pasadena, and her infant sons, JOHN, nine months, and LELAND KIMBALL III, 19 months.
BATCHELOR reportedly was flying to the scene of the crash.
Finding of the wreckage came only a short time after Coast Guard and air-sea rescue planes from Hamilton Air Force Base began an intensive search at dawn.
It was spotted, apparently almost simultaneously, by a Coast Guard amphibian piloted by Lieut. JERRY REA and by a guard at the north guard post of the Benicia Arsenal grounds, CLIFFORD H. DeCIUS.
Benicia Police Chief VINCENT WARREN said the plane plowed into the low hill only 150 feet from the crest. I apparently struck nearly nose-on, then sloughed around as it scraped up the hillside.
Wreckage was scattered for a radius of 250 yards. Only sections intact were the right wing and tail. The fuselage, which apparently caught fire at the first impact, was described as "just like a ball of metal."
E. R. MITCHELL, Civil Aeronautics Board examiner, immediately began an on-the-spot investigation of the crash.
The plane was one of two which disappeared yesterday on short flights through rain and fog that blanketed much of the state.
Second Plane.
The other plane, still unreported this morning, is a private craft piloted by R. L. BRYANT, a Philco Radio Corporation technician, who was en route from his home in Glendale to Hamilton Field on business.
When authorities were unable to locate his plane in a communications check of airports along the route, the Civil Air Patrol launched an air search this morning from the Salinas and San Jose Airfields.
Some 15 CAP planes were participating in the search at noon, concentrating on the route between Atascadern and Salinas. The search was being directed by Maj. GEORGE FAULKNER, of 4024 Edgemoor Place, Oakland, State search and rescue officer for the CAP.
The DC-3, a converted Army C-47 operated by California Arrow Airways on a daily flight from Los Angeles to Sacramento, via Oakland, arrived at Oakland Airport shortly before 5 p.m. yesterday.
Over Richmond.
After 10 passengers had alighted, the twin-engine ship took off at 5:03 p.m. with the four remaining passengers and its crew of three. Five minutes later, Pilot JIM GARNETT, of Burbank, radioed that he was over Richmond at 4000 feet. At that time he was at the intersection of the Oakland and Fairfield radio beams. The latter would carry him directly into Sacramento in about 21 minutes.
GARNETT reported his position to the Oakland control tower, but did not check in with the Fairfield tower, as is normal procedure.
The plane carried enough fuel to remain aloft only until about 7:33 p.m.
When that hour passed last night, and no word had been received that the ship had set down at some emergency point, airways officials feared it had crashed somewhere in the 34 miles Richmond and Fairfield.
That is the general area where the search was concentrated today. The Coast Guard plane and a C-47 and helicopter from Hamilton Field working with two air-sea rescue ground parties, had just begun a methodical hunt when the discovery was made.
Ground parties covered the rugged Franklin Canyon area of Contra Costa County during the night after several ranchers reported burning flares and hearing a plane droning low over the ground. All these reports proved to be false.
The air-sea rescue hunt helicopter piloted by Capt. A. P. LOVBODY and with Capt. JOHN SHUMATE aboard landed at the wreck scene a short time after the wreckage was sighted to direct removal of the bodies.

Oakland Tribune California 1949-12-08