AIRCRAFT CRASH INFORMATION-NEWSPAPER ARTICLES

Ruby Mountains Express--Logo by Jocelyne Rohrback: www.jrnewmedia.com                       

Return to Home Page, Part 1, Hiking the Ruby Mountains

AIRCRAFT CRASH INFORMATION--NEWSPAPER ARTICLES (PART 7)
(1943 B-17 crash and 1952 C-47 crash in East Humboldts)

Contents of this page:
B-17 Crash Information || C-47 Crash Information || Site Search Engine

LINKS TO ASSOCIATED PAGES:
View Photo Preview Page (1) || View Photo Preview Page (2) || Part 1 Trail to Liberty Pass and Beyond
Part 2 Other Wilderness Areas, Photos and Information || Part 2 Supplement Other Wilderness Areas, Photos and Information
Part 3 Outfitters, Pack Trips and Backpacking Guide Service
Part 3 Supplement Outfitters, Pack Trips, Thomas Canyon, Right Fork Canyon and Ruby Valley
Part 4 Hiking the Ruby Crest Trail with Lynda Mellows and Rosanne Baker || Photo Page Hole in the Mountain--East Humboldts
Part 5 Birdeye Lake, Overland Lake, Lake Peak, Smith Lake, Clover Valley and Cave Creek || Part 6 Hiking Difficulty Comparison Chart


B-17 FLYING FORTRESS CRASHES IN THE EAST HUMBOLDTS

Flying Fortress B-17F, Serial Number 42-5152, took off from Wendover Field, Utah at 0810 on January 2, 1943 on a local navigation flight to include Elko, Burley, Pocatello, and Ogden and return to Wendover. Due to developing weather along the route, the legs to Pocatello and Ogden were cancelled. After take off, the plane circled Wendover field until 0853 when it was given clearance to continue with the mission to Elko and Burley and return to Wendover. Pilot and co-pilot were to alternate flying under the hood during the mission.

The plane was not heard from again and was not discovered until June 24, 1943 at a crash site located near a 11,000 foot peak in the East Humboldt mountain range located between Wells and Elko, Nevada. The plane would have hardly flown 50 miles before hitting the mountain peak. It was assumed that the plane would have been flying by instruments. The newspaper text states that the plane disappeared in a blizzard but blizzard conditions had not been established. Official weather reports state that the mountain tops were probably obscured in strato-cumulas clouds with scattered snow showers. No severe weather was thought to exist.

The following newspaper articles from the Elko Daily Free Press, edited to improve readability, report the aircraft's discovery and the progress of the dangerous recovery of the deceased flyers. Although discovered in late June, considerable snow still remained at the crash area that contributed to the difficult recovery. The articles always refer to the general location as the Ruby Mountains rather than the East Humboldts. One mountain range is an extension of the other and it is common to refer to both as the Rubies.

Note that the articles refer to the military personnel involved as soldiers since the air force at the time was the United States Army Air Force.

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June 25, 1943
Wreckage of Flying Fortress Found in Ruby Mountains, 10 Bodies Recovered
Ship Discovered Against Cliff at the Head of Pole Canyon
Plane Is First Sighted from Air

The Flying Fortress from Wendover Field, which was lost in a storm and crashed last January 2nd while on its way to Elko, has been found in the Ruby mountains. The plane wreckage and the 10 mangled bodies of the crew were discovered on a ragged peak of the Rubies at the head of Pole Canyon on the Ruby Valley (east) side.

DISCOVERED WEDNESDAY
The discovery of the wreckage was made from the air Wednesday from a plane out of Wendover that had been assigned to look for the lost Fortress. The snow had melted sufficiently to reveal parts of the wrecked sky giant.

The dead are as follows:
OFFICERS:
Second Lieut. Cyril J. Casey, pilot, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Second Lieut. Ray C. Hochheimer, co-pilot, Blue Island, Illinois
Second Lieut. Clifford J. Elliott, navigator, Philadelphia, PA
Second Lieut. Arthur F. Kelly, bombardier, Chicago, Illinois

ENLISTED MEN:
Sgt. Michael J. DiSalvo, engineer, Philadelphia, PA
Sgt. Alexander C. Johnson, assistant engineer, Los Angeles, CA
Sgt. Seymour E. Sonkin, radio operator, Tucson, AZ
Sgt. Byron E. Olson, assistant radio operator, Morrill, NEB
Sgt. Lowell T. Stoner, tail gunner, Seneca, S.D.
Sgt. James A. Karnspon, armorer-gunner, Woodside, Long Island, N.Y.

Wendover officials have designated the Jim Wright ranch at Pole canyon as headquarters for the workmen who will remove the bodies and parts of the plane. A corps of officers has been named to investigate the accident. Rumors reaching Elko indicate that a jeep carrying four Wendover soldiers was taken up the mountainside as far as possible and they then hiked the rest of the way to the wreckage. Ranchers and soldiers later made the trip to the plane by horseback.

BODIES WELL PRESERVED
Owing to the cold weather and the flying suits, the bodies of the flyers had been well preserved. All the bodies but one were jammed into the wreckage while the other was some distance from the plane. (It is thought that this individual may have survived the initial crash and had crawled away from the plane.)

Sheriff C.L. Smith of Elko has volunteered assistance from his office and made the trip to the scene of the wreck this afternoon.

CONCENTRATED HUNT
With army planes from Wendover and the Nevada CAP out of Reno assisting in the search, the loss of this plane resulted in one of the widest searches of its kind in the history of Elko county. The county was carefully combed but the wreckage not discovered since it was covered with snow. Weather was stormy part of the time that added to the difficulty of the search.

A great deal of the search was centered around Cougar peak in the Jarbidge area when it was reported that people in that vicinity had heard a plane. The CAP and other local pilots covered 8,000 miles in their trips over the area while searching for the plane. In addition to the air units, mounted and motorized divisions were brought in from Reno.

Army officials requested today that the immediate disposition of the bodies be withheld until further notice.


June 28, 1943
Bodies Are Still Being Removed From Wreckage
Great Difficulty Encountered in Moving Remains

Bodies are still being removed from the wreckage of the Flying Fortress that crashed against a rocky cliff of the Ruby Mountains on January 2nd. While the army has made no statement concerning the wreckage, other than to report it and give the names and addresses of the dead, it is now reported that the wreckage extended over a distance of 250 yards. It was said that the bodies were not grouped in the aircraft, but spread over this distance.

CASKETS TO SCENE
Caskets are being taken to the scene for the disposal of the bodies.

Great difficulty has been encountered in removing the bodies because of the ruggedness of the terrain. The plane hit a peak at the head of Pole Canyon above the Jim Wright ranch on the Ruby Valley side of the Rubies.


June 29, 1943
10 Bodies From Wrecked Plane Brought to Elko
Difficult Task Is Confronted On Rugged Peak

The arduous task of removing the bodies of 10 flyers from the wreckage of a Flying Fortress that crashed in the Ruby Mountains January 2nd was nearing completion this afternoon. It is expected that all of the bodies will have been brought to Elko by tonight where they will be prepared for shipment by Robley Burns, manager of the Arnold mortuary.

With assistance from ranchers in the vicinity of the crash and soldiers from Wendover Field, William B. Wright, manager of the 71 ranch, supervised the removal of the bodies from the wreckage. The task of bringing the bodies to the Jim Wright ranch at Pole Canyon from the ragged 12,000 foot peak of the Rubies proved to be very difficult.

ROPES NEEDED
Ropes were needed to lower the bodies from ledge to ledge on the downward course. Burns took part in the job of removing the bodies from the mountain crags, and he described the task as being most difficult. Some of the soldiers participating had no previous mountain climbing experience and it made their work doubly hard. Jeeps were driven up the mountain as far as possible, after which horses were ridden and the remaining distance being made on foot.

It was reported yesterday that the bodies were strewn over the mountain peak for a distance of 250 yards. The first report said that the bodies were huddled in the plane, with the exception of one, which had been thrown clear of the wreckage. Ten flyers were killed in the accident that occurred in a blizzard as the men were on a routine flight from Wendover Field to Elko.

The wreckage was sighted from the air last Wednesday and the job of removing the bodies required almost a complete week.

The coroner's inquest into the death of the flyers was conducted this afternoon at the Jim Wright ranch by Coroner E. Bollschweller of Wells.


June 30, 1943
Ranchers Are Praised by Lieutenant
Bodies Removed from Wreck
Hazardous Job Details Are Given

Elko county ranchers were praised today for the part that they played in removing the bodies of 10 American flyers from a 12,000 foot peak of the Ruby Mountains.

The herculean task completed late yesterday by the ranchers and soldiers came in for commendation by Lt. Alphonso Madden, public relations officer of Wendover Field. All of the bodies from the wrecked Flying Fortress that crashed in the Rubies at the head of Pole canyon on January 2nd have been brought to Elko and await shipment from the Arnold mortuary.

MEN RISK LIVES
Lieutenant Madden said today "The men who took part in this stupendous task risked their lives time and again in removing the bodies. They came out of the mountains without a minor accident after accomplishing a job that many of them felt was impossible. Once the job of removing the dead commenced, it was completed in a day's time."

Despite the heroic action of the soldiers, Lieutenant Madden freely gave the greatest credit to the ranchers, particularly to William B. Wright, manager of the 71 ranch, whom he said did a great job of organizing and leading the ranchers and soldiers throughout the entire job until completed.

SOLDIERS DOGGED DETERMINATION
The Lieutenant said that some of the soldiers, who had never been at such high altitude and who had no mountain experience, found the going difficult but they stuck doggedly to the job.

He listed the names of those who actually took part in the removal of the bodies as follows: Ranchers William B. Wright, Jim Wright, Bob Duval, forest ranger L.E. McKenzie, Ray Woolverton, Darrel Lear Jr., Bill Lear and mortician Robley Burns; Officers, Cpt. Charles Michaels, Lt. John Mansus; Enlisted Men, Privates William R. White, Wardie A. Davis, Fred O. Wilkinson, Richard F. Stephens, Thomas W. Mabry, Domonick V. Colao, Carl Shepp, Joe A. Vavro, Raffel Beradi and Sydney Butensky.

BODIES WRAPPED
Under the direction of mortician Burns, each of the bodies was wrapped in the flyers' silk parachutes and in a rubber sheeting. When they were finally brought to the Wright ranch they were sealed in caskets.

The story of reclaiming the bodies from the vastness of the rugged Ruby peak where the giant Fortress crashed was one of arduous labor with each man exerting himself to the utmost to accomplish the job. It meant preparing the bodies for delivery to the ranch; lowering them over sheer cliffs for hundreds of feet to resting places below; tobogganing the bodies over snow banks hundreds of feet in length; and finally bringing them to a point where they could be taken down in jeeps and ambulance conveyances.

The initial preparation required the carving of a jeep road up the side of the mountain as far as possible. Horses were then ridden up the steep mountainside until the horses could go no further; and finally, the dangerous mission of traveling by foot over loose shale and rocks to the scene of the wreckage. Today other crews were going to the wreck to see if anything might be salvaged.

"It was a stupendous job, well done," Lieutenant Madden concluded, "and those taking part in it are deserving of their country's thanks. The fortitude and resourcefulness of those ranchers is something that should be a lesson to the youth of our nation. It indicated to me that with such men on the home front, we cannot fail in our great mission of winning this war (referring to WWII)."


July 7, 1943
William Wright Reviews Task of Removing Bodies

Narrated by William B. Wright who was in charge of the civilians and soldiers who recovered the bodies, Rotarians of Elko heard a dramatic first hand account of the recovery of the 10 bodies from the wreckage of the Flying Fortress that crashed in the Ruby Mountains January 2nd. As previously recounted, the ship was torn into a mass of wreckage as it crashed against a precipitous cliff at about a 70 degree angle. The ship was near a pass in the mountains and all of the bodies but one were clustered near the ship. One body was about 1,000 feet from the others.

Milton B. Badt, in charge of the program, presented Lt. Alphonso Madden who in turn introduced Wright and paid high compliment to Wright's leadership and to the courageous conduct of the ranchers and soldiers who took part in the job.

Wright commended those taking part and detailed some of the difficulties encountered. He described cutting holes in the stretchers so that carriers at the back could watch their footing over a particularly difficult section where one mis-step could have meant serious injury and possible death.

The ship was new with wrappings still on the machine guns, and although there was every possibility of a fire, one did not occur. One gas tank partly filled with gasoline was thrown a great distance from the plane.


July 12, 1943
Lt. Col. Robert N. Dippy Thanks Ranchers for Part They Played in Removing Bodies from Plane Wreck.

Lt. Col. Robert N. Dippy, commander of the Wendover air base, has written a letter of appreciation to ranchers who took part in the job of removing the bodies from the wrecked Flying Fortress, which crashed into the Ruby Mountains on January 2nd.

The letters were written to William B. Wright, Jim Wright, Bill Lear, Darrel Lear Jr., Bob Duval, Roy Wolverton, and forest ranger L.E. Mckenzie. The letter said:
"I am taking this opportunity to write to you because of reports which have come to my attention of the tremendous part which you played in the recovery of the bodies of 10 flyers which were killed in an aircraft accident.

"I am fully cognizant of all the facts relative to this incident and for this reason I know that the success attained was a direct result of the courage, stamina, fortitude, and perseverance shown by you and the other ranchers who assisted in this dangerous task. I know too, that except for the characteristics evidenced by you, that success could never have been attained.

"This particular job was out of the scope of the Army, as out men were neither trained nor experienced enough for this undertaking. It was the excellent spirit and attitude which you manifested without consideration for yourself or personal safety when the job was turned over to you that is worthy of more praise than I can ever show by a mere letter of thanks to you.

"We at Wendover Field have always felt it an honor to have you as our neighbors, but we never fully appreciated the full measure of privilege involved until it was necessary for us to call upon you. You may be sure that your influence on the officers and enlisted men who participated in that expedition will never be forgotten by them, and you may be sure that we all will serve our country as better soldiers now that we fully realize the type of men who are holding down the home front.

"Please accept in my name as Commanding Officer and representative of the United States Army Air Corps, the sincerest appreciation of every man in uniform for the courageous deeds which you have just completed in our behalf."

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Ruby Mountains Express--Logo by Jocelyne Rohrback: www.jrnewmedia.com                       


Above copyrighted C-47 photo courtesy of Mr. Paul Nann, Military Aviation Photo Gallery.

C-47 CRASHES IN THE EAST HUMBOLDTS

Except for the web site author's comments in parenthesis, the following information is from the official USAF crash report of C-47D, AF43-49533, piloted by 1st Lt. Hans Hansen, that occurred in the East Humboldt mountain range near Wells and Elko, NV.

On December 10, 1952, C-47 AF44-76447 piloted by Major Joseph Scurzi departed Peterson AFB, Colorado Springs, CO, destination Stead AFB, NV, and 15 minutes later C-47 AF43-49553 piloted by 1st Lt Hans Hansen departed Peterson AFB for the same destination. The route would cross northern Nevada.

Pilots were briefed on the weather that was considered visual from Peterson Field to Sinclair, WY Radio and on instruments from that point to Reno Radio. Ogden, UT and Elko, NV reported 5,000 foot overcast ceilings with 15 to 50 mile visibilities and scattered snow showers. Winds were given as 20-30 knots at the 12,000 foot flight altitude.

Major Scurzi later reported that wind was stronger than what was forecasted and estimated to be 45 knots. Turbulent conditions had not been mentioned during the weather briefings, but extreme turbulence was encountered at the intersection of the Lucin, UT and Elko Radio Ranges. Light rime ice was encountered that required occasional use of wing de-icer boots, prop de-icer, and carburetor de-icing fluid. Major Scurzi indicated that at no time were the icing conditions considered dangerous and all de-icing equipment worked satisfactorily.

Major Scurzi heard Ogden radio station acknowledging Lt Hansen's position report over Lucin station. At the intersection of the Lucin and Elko Radio Ranges, Major Scurzi encountered such extreme turbulence that required both he and the co-pilot to be on the controls in order to maintain level flight. Their aircraft lost approximately 800 feet altitude upon initial entry into the turbulent down draft and the wind drift to the south was stronger at that point. The turbulence lasted 10-15 minutes and required lowering the landing gears to help stabilize the aircraft. It was necessary to make several large corrections of about 50 degrees to the right to get back on the course of the Elko Range. After passing Elko Radio, Major Scurzi's aircraft heard Elko Radio trying to contact Lt. Hansen's aircraft but without success. Battle Mountain, Lovelock and Reno Radio also tried to contact but without success.

Search and rescue aircraft from Hamilton AFB and Stead AFB were sent out to look for the overdue C-47 and two days later on December 12th, the crashed aircraft was spotted at an elevation of approximately 10,700 feet on the east slope of the East Humboldt range between Wells and Elko, NV. The downed aircraft was reached by the rescue party on December 13th. (Several peaks in this area, including Hole in the Mountain Peak where the aircraft crashed, exceed 11,000 feet.) The crash location is approximately 13 miles to the left of the centerline of the Elko Radio Range. A rancher about seven miles east of the scene reported later that he heard a large aircraft around 1500 MST but could not see it due to the low overcast and snowstorm.

All personnel onboard suffered fatal injuries and are identified as follows:
Hans E. Hansen, 1st Lt, Pilot
James V. Boozer, 1st Lt, Co-pilot
Harry E. Barlow, 1st Lt, Navigator
Richard W. Mateja, M/Sgt, Radio Operator
Allyn B. Olson, A/2C, Flight Engineer
James A. Evans, Passenger

(Similar to the B-17 crash official report, the C-47 official report does not at all mention the assistance rendered by the local ranchers in the recovery of the bodies from the aircraft.)

Capt. Edward W. Morris, USAF 41st Air Rescue Squadron, Hamilton AFB, CA, who was part of the rescue operation provided the following information: Approximately 60 feet from the top of the ridge south of the crash, the party found a large piece of metal, presumably an engine cowling. As we progressed further down the mountain, a small door was found about 80 feet from the cowling. This door was singed on the inside but not badly burned. The main wreckage was about 250 feet from the ridge. (Another document, source of information not shown, indicates the main wreckage was 500 yards from the initial point of impact.)

The fuselage was badly damaged and split in two from the rear door to the tail. The right wing was comparatively intact and one engine was detached and setting by the wing. It appeared to be badly damaged. (Ken Hammond and I located the second engine the following summer some distance below the primary crash location.) Capt. Morris reported that it appeared gasoline had been scattered for a distance of 60 feet surrounding the aircraft since all the rocks in the area were blackened. The aircraft had been carrying 400 gallons of gasoline in the forward fuselage tanks.

Since the rescue party was in great haste to leave the mountain before darkness, very little interest was centered on looking for valves, switches, etc. Capt. Morris had the opportunity to look at the altimeter panel instrument but both hands were not present. It was noted that a watch located on one of the victims was stopped at 2155. He stated that the area was accessible only because of the perfect weather conditions during the two day trek to the wreckage. He advised that inexperienced personnel keep off the mountain until such time that the snow melts.

(A poor copy of an aerial photo of the crash area clearly identifies the distinctive pyramid shaped peak that contains the hole, and this concurs with our finding of the second engine below the peak.)

Weeks Access Road from Clover Valley Leading to Hole in the Mountain Basin

Lizzie's Basin Sign Short Distance up Access Road Hole in the Mountain Basin from Sign

Expand the right photo and note the hole in the pyramid looking peak to the right of center. It may be commonly thought that this peak containing the hole is Hole in the Mountain Peak, the highest peak in the East Humboldts, but the Peak is just a short distance south of the hole, and is about midway between the hole and the right edge of the photo. Note the steepness of the terrain for some distance below the mountain ridge.

Hole in the Mountain Hole in the Mountain from Clover Valley Side of the East Humboldts

The findings of the Accident Review Board concluded that, while on instruments, the pilot had not maintained sufficient drift correction to stay within the airway, and that extreme downdrafts caused the aircraft to descend approximately 1300 feet below assigned altitude. It was recommended that a minimum of 13,000 feet flying altitude be established between Lucin and Elko Radio.

It was thought by the review board that a mountain wave air flow may have existed over the area.

Explanation of mountain wave:
A mountain wave is similar to the shape of an ocean wave to the extent that air flows in a roller coaster manner along the contour of the mountain. One condition for a mountain wave is that the wind direction must be nearly perpendicular to the mountain, is diverted upward, and along with certain wind velocity conditions, causes the air to flow like a wave, resulting in severe updrafts along the peaks and severe downdrafts in the valleys.

The rule of thumb for not getting caught in a dangerous mountain wave is to fly at an altitude that is half again as high as the mountain. Assuming that Clover Valley at the base of Hole in the Mountain Peak is approximately 5,500 feet and the mountain range is about 11,000 feet, the mountain would be about 5,500 feet high. Half of 5,500 is around 2,800 feet so safe flying altitude during a wave condition would be in the order of 13,800 feet over the East Humboldts and the adjoining Ruby Mountain range. A mountain wave can often be identified by the presence of what is called a standing lenticular cloud, a stationary cloud shaped like a double-convex lens, with the high point near the center of the cloud.

*******************************************

The following article from the December 22, 1952 issue of the Elko Daily Free Press relates to the recovery of the bodies of the six flyers following the discovery of the wreckage of the downed C-47 in the vicinity of Hole in The Mountain Peak. The crash occurred on December 10th and the recovery was accomplished three days later on December 13th over rugged terrain with snow.

The opening sentence in the article correctly identifies the crash site as being in the vicinity of Hole in The Mountain (in the East Humboldt Mountain Range located between Wells and Elko, Nevada). However, it is stated incorrectly in the text that follows that the plane crashed into Humboldt Peak (which should be Hole in The Mountain Peak). Humboldt Peak is located in the East Humboldt mountain range, and the error is probably due to erroneous thinking that Humboldt Peak and the East Humboldts are one and the same.

Humboldt Peak is four to five miles south of Hole in the Mountain and is close to the B-17 crash site. It would be impossible to make a recovery, especially in winter, from the Clover Valley side of Humboldt Peak in the manner described in the text. However, the downed aircraft could be approached from Hole in The Mountain basin as described in the article. Note that reporter Frank Johnson was not with the recovery party, but had obtained the information from someone who was.

December 22, 1952
RUGGED CLIMB UP TO WRECKED PLANE RECOUNTED BY ONE OF GROUND PARTY

Editor's note: An account of the arduous climb up the Clover Valley side of Hole In the Mountain to the site of a crashed C-47 was given last week to Nevada State Journal reporter Frank Johnson by one of the members of the party assigned the grim task of removing the bodies of six fliers killed in the mishap. Johnson's story is carried here in full.


BY FRANK JOHNSON

Three civilians and three Air Force men from Stead Air Force Base were among the nine-man crew that removed the bodies of six persons killed last week in the crash of an Air Force C-47 near Elko. The civilians, all Strategic Air Command survival school instructors, were Glenn M. Hawkins, Curtis Chase and Carlyle Geisler. The Air Force men included Captain Joseph Kiernan, 390th Composite Wing surgeon, S/Sgt. F.P. Klechinger, a paramedic, and A/1c Lloyd Wayne who demonstrates parachute jumping to Stead Survival school classes.

Five crew members and a passenger were aboard the C-47 on a routine flight from Peterson Air Force Base near Colorado Springs, Colorado to Stead when the twin engine plane crashed into Humboldt Peak (should be Hole in the Mountain Peak) in the rugged Ruby mountain range 18 miles southwest of Wells. A blizzard was in progress at the time it crashed. When the plane became long overdue on the six-hour and 50 minute flight, about 30 civilian and Air Force planes from Nevada, California, Utah, and Colorado joined in the search. The burned wreckage was not sighted until December 12th.


RESCUE IS DESCRIBED
With the permission of Air Force officers, Mr. Hawkins, one of three civilians to reach the crash scene, yesterday told the events of the rescue operation. As soon as the burned plane was sighted 100 feet from the top of Humboldt peak by Major C.W. Grace of Stead, rescue team members were alerted and left at noon in a C-47 for Elko. Rescue operations are conducted by the 4th Air Rescue group at Hamilton Air Force Base, and the party was led by Capt. Edward Morris, a paramedic from Hamilton's 41st Air Rescue Squadron. The Stead AFB men were requested to make the mission because of their specialized training.

On the flight to Elko, Major Charles T. Streit, who piloted the Stead C-47, made four passes over the crash scene to acquaint the rescue team with the territory and allow them to choose the best methods of approaching the wreckage. The area was described at the time by Col. D.C. Stampados, Stead AFB Deputy Commander, as "One of the grimmest I've ever seen."

At Elko the crew was augmented by Capt. Morris and a second Hamilton AFB man and an Elko county coroner who were taken to Wells, arriving there about 2 a.m. At 5 a.m. that day, riding in a Dodge power wagon, chains on all four wheels, that was furnished by an Elko used car dealer, along with a jeep flown in by Fourth Air Rescue, and led by a D-5 caterpillar loaned and driven by rancher Russ Weeks, the party made its way to a basin on the Weeks ranch just northeast of the crash

"Weeks", Mr.Hawkins said, "really wheeled that cat for us. He not only cleared the way, but also towed our other vehicles when they bogged down."

Making their way 6,000 feet up the 11,000 foot mountain in the vehicles, the rescue party moved on foot to the south side of the ridge to get out of the snow, then continued upward. Saturday night they camped at the 10,000 foot level. An Air Force plane, keeping an aerial watch on the party, radioed that it was "extremely rough and slow going".


CRUDE SLEEPING QUARTERS
Although the men had a ground-to-air radio, they established no contact that night. They made crude shelters out of parachute material and slept in sleeping bags. "It was one of the best nights I've spent out" Hawkins said. He recalled the temperature, even at night, did not go below 20 degrees. The three-day rescue operation was marked by fair, warm weather in contrast to the blinding snowstorm that was raging when the airplane crashed.

The next morning (Sunday) the men making the mission rose at 5:30 and continued winding their way up the peak. They arrived at the crash scene about noon. Mr. Hawkins said the plane, which had burned after hitting the peak, was scattered, but not too badly. There was no evidence that any of the six men aboard had survived the crash even momentarily. Much of the wreckage was snow-covered.

Once at the scene the men waited until an Air Force plane flew over to drop additional cans of rations and the heavy canvas human remains bags that had been considered too heavy to carry up the steep slope.


BOULDERS CREATE THREAT
The most difficult and most dangerous task of the operation came when the bodies of the six men had been moved about 600 feet from the wreckage. A slope of massed boulders, treacherous to cross even unburdened, lay in the way. We strung out a tyrolean traverse to take the bodies across. Mr. Hawkins said the 400 foot span of rope was the only thing that made it possible for rescuers to complete their mission that day. The traverse is similar to a breeches bouy.

Mr. Hawkins said "At the 10,000 foot level we met a party of ranchers headed by Russ Weeks. They had horses and, with them, took the bodies down the mountain, starting at about 9:30 p.m." The rescue party returned to their camp to spend the night and then followed the ranchers down the mountain. "Those ranchers are the finest bunch of people we've ever met." Mr. Hawkins said.

The bodies were taken from the ranch on Monday to the Burns Mortuary in Elko, then on to Hill Air Force Base near Ogden, Utah. Mr. Hawkins explained that the three Stead instructors and the other Stead personnel were taken on the mission because of their specialized training. When the airborne observers spotted the treacherous rocky slope near the wreckage, it was stated "It looked rougher than it was really was.", but it could have been pretty rugged if the weather hadn't held out. The plane was on the only spot on the mountain where we could have reached it.

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Part 1, Trail to Liberty Pass and Beyond
Part 2, Other Wilderness Areas
Part 2 Supplement, Other Wilderness Areas, Photos and Information
Part 3, Outfitters and Pack Trips
Part 3 Supplement, Outfitters, Pack Trips, Thomas Canyon, Right Fork Canyon and Ruby Valley
Part 4, Hiking the Ruby Crest Trail with Lynda Mellows and Rosanne Baker
Photo Page, Hole in the Mountain--East Humboldts
Part 5, Birdeye Lake, Overland Lake, Lake Peak, Smith Lake, Clover Valley and Cave Creek
Part 6, Hiking Difficulty Comparison Chart



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