Laguna Mountains, CA Plane Crashes En Route To San Diego, Dec 1946



San Diego, Cal. (UP) -- Officials held little hope today that any of the 12 persons aboard a Western Air transport plane missing since Christmas eve would be found alive.
Fog so thick it forced patrol planes to fly by instrument halted the search, centered 60 miles east of here, at sundown yesterday. The coast guard said its planes would be back in the air at dawn today.
Scores of deputy sheriffs, ranchers, and forest rangers who combed the mountains on foot and on horseback also called off the search. A party of eight, led by RUDY FROWISS of El Centro, Cal., brother-in-law of passenger EDGAR MARTIN, continued through the night.
Chances Remote.
Chances for survivors among the nine holiday-bound passengers and three crew members appeared remote. Ranchers and three high school boys reported they saw a flash and a fire in the mountains 11 minutes after the two-engined DC-3 made its last radio report, and a housewife who also saw the flash said it was followed by an explosion.
Coast Guard pilot Lt. IRA McMULLEN reported he saw a "silver tail through the overcast" 10 miles east of Mount Laguna and other wreckage scattered over a wide area. Visibility was so poor that searchers were unable to identify the wreckage definitely.
The rugged Laguna mountain area has been the scene of frequent plane crashes, including that of an American airliner last March 3 with a loss of 28 lives.
A marine corps detachment of 25 men, equipped with stretchers, first aid and rations, was participating in the search. Under-sheriff HENRY J. ADAMS was in charge of the ground party.
Bound For San Diego.
The plane, bound for San Diego from El Centro, Cal., last was heard from at 7:09 p. m. Christmas Eve when Pilot GEORGE SPRADO radioed he was over Mount Laguna at an eleveation of 7,000 feet. At that time he said everything was "okay" and visibility excellent. The low fog closed in soon after the plane disappeared, shrouding its fate.
SPRADO'S bride of a year was waiting for him beside their gaily decorated Christmas tree in their Santa Monica home when she heard radio calls from the control tower vainly trying to contact his flight.
"I knew something was wrong when calls for flight 44 went unanswered," MRS. LOUISE SPRADO said. "It has happened before, however, so I was not particularly upset. I still believe everything will come out all right."