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July 30, 1935 Northrop fighter plane Arthur H. Skaer, Jr. San Clemente Island Went missing.
December 11, 1937 seaplane both pilots killed San Clemente Island Wreckage was found Feb. 12, 1938.
June 6, 1941 Thomas Tepuni
Paul Burroughs
Otto Wilkenning
San Clemente Island Two Navy planes attached to the cruiser U.S.S. Chester, collided midair off San Clemente Island.
April 22, 1943 John A. Titcomb San Clemente Island Plane crashed on San Clemente Island.
September 25, 1945 Navy patrol bomber San Clemente Island Two Navy patrol bombers collided near San Clemente Island, one plane exploding 200 feet above a target range. Six occupants of the second plane survived when the plane made a water landing near Seal Rocks at the east end of Santa Catalina Island.
January 30, 1948 Navy trainer Arthur F. Berger, Jr.
Emery Papp
San Clemente Island Killed when their Navy trainer crashed in the surf.
June 4, 1949 Grumman F6F 1 fatality San Clemente Island Two planes of a squadron piloted by Naval Reserve fliers had a mid-air collision near San Clemente Island. One plane was able to make a landing at the Los Alamitos airstrip; the other fell to the ocean three miles south of San Clemente Island.
November 11, 1955 Douglas AD5N Skyraider Melvin S. Essary Robert E. Stewart Brent M. Phillips Roger M. Edwards Robert D. Hobel San Clemente Island 5 fatalities when a plane crashed into the USS Hopewell off San Clemente Island.
November 17, 1966 SH3A Seaking helicopter Serial #148975 William E. Todd
Charles N. Tozer
James E. Gray
G. A. Pearce
San Clemente Island Four men from HS-2 Squadron were killed when their Navy helicopter crashed west of San Clemente Island. Two bodies were recovered; two remained missing. Three men were rescued.
June 15, 1978 F-14A Tomcat Serial #160653 Scott Stallings
Steven S. Dalley
San Clemente Island From VF-124 Squadron were killed when their Miramar-based jet crashed at sea near San Clemente Island.
1981 Beech TC-45J N68392 David McMahon San Clemente Island Marijuana smuggler was killed when his plane crashed on San Clemente Island.
June 1, 1984 Sikorsky CH-53E helicopter James Kloss
Barry Thompson
Thomas Schaefer
John Utsinger
San Clemente Island From HMH-465 Squadron were killed when their Sea Stallion helicopter lifting a truck from the deck of the U.S.S. Denver crashed into the ocean.
March 5, 1985 Learjets 4 fatalities San Clemente Island Two Learjets under contract to San Clemente Island collided.
November 17, 1990 Cessna 172 Robert W. Bacon San Clemente Island Accidentally flew his Cessna into San Clemente Island while fish-spotting

"Seaplane crashed on San Clemente Island
Dec. 11, 1937. Both pilots were killed.
Wreckage was found Feb. 12, 1938.
I was one of the searching party. B. C. Smith."

In the News~

November 1934: “A news flash that aircraft wreckage had been found on San Clemente Island on August 2 [1935] gave hope that they mystery of the Northrup 3A would be solved. The wreckage in a rugged canyon turned out to be that of a biplane that crashed in November 1934 while taking goat hunters to San Clemente Island. All three men on board were injured but survived, and they were rescued by the Coast Guard. Depressed by the news, Mrs. Skaer and the pilot's father asked the Coast Guard to drag the sea bottom near Palos Verdes Peninsula...”

November 26, 1934 [OT]: “Los Angeles, Nov. 26. — A coast guard cutter put out for San Clemente Island in search of an airplane and its three occupants who have been unreported since early yesterday. Members of their families requested the search after Victor Probert, Vernon Morse and Sparks Barnett failed to return home from a hunting trip to the island, 50 miles off the Southern California coast. They had promised to return yesterday noon, authorities were told. Probert was pilot. Sheriff's deputies were sent out to search the coastline on the possibility the plane crashed.”

November 26, 1934 [Santa Ana Register]: “Los Angeles, Nov. 26. — Rescued by a coast guard cutter from San Clemente Island where their airplane crashed yesterday, three men were being brought to San Pedro today by the cutter, according to a radio received by the coast guard base. The brief message said that Vernon Morse, 29, had suffered a broken arm in the crash, but that the other two were uninjured. The plane crashed about five miles from Mosquito Harbor, on a mesa. It was believed the men made a forced landing when their plane got into difficulties. The wreckage, with the men standing beside it, was sighted from the cutter, the message said. The three men, Morse, Victor Probert and Sparks Barnette, took off for the island early yesterday o a hunting trip. They had intended to return at noon Sunday. When they failed to return late yesterday, two coast guard cutters took up the search.”

August 3, 1935 [LAT]: “False lead marks lost plane hunt. Wreck that of another craft. Search for the Army’s missing mystery plane in which Lieutenant Arthur H. Skaer, Jr., disappeared last Tuesday caused some excitement yesterday when a mass of aircraft wreckage was sighted in a rugged arroyo on San Clemente Island, but the wreck proved to be that of another plane. The wreck, which was observed from the air by a U.S. Coast Guard plane, is that of a tin biplane that crashed there last November with three men. Identification of the wreck was established through investigation by The Times. It was a small blue and silver biplane powered with an OX-5 motor owned by Wilton Probert, 26 years of age, of Hollywood. With Probert, on a goat-hunting expedition, were Sparks E. Bonnett, 28 of 1648 Stearns Drive, and Vernon Morse, 29, of 336 North Alta Vista Avenue. All three men were injured when the ship crashed. They were rescued by Coast Guardsmen and later returned to the island, stripping the wrecked craft of its instruments. Recently Probert and Bonnett flew over the island and viewed the wreckage. Probert was not available last night, but Bonnett said the debris sighted by the Coast Guard plane yesterday undoubtedly is the wreck of Probert's ship. Coast Guard Patrol boat No. 254 stood off Pyramid Cove, San Clemente Island, last night, expecting to examine the find at dawn. They are advised, however, of the identity of the wreck. Charles Swedeborg, a fisherman at Mosquito Cove, also had advised the Coast Guard the wreck is an old one. Search for Lieut. Skaer and his missing Northrop fighting ship, constructed for the Army as one of the world's fastest and most formidable pursuit planes, continued unabated.”

August 3, 1935 [LAT]: “False lead marks lost plane hunt. Wreck that of another craft… Charles Swedeborg, a fisherman at Mosquito Harbor, on San Clemente Island, also had advised the Coast Guard the wreck is an old one…”

November 18, 1938 [Wilmington Daily Press Journal]: “Los Angeles, Nov. 17. — Two Navy fliers were alive and unhurt today after bailing out when their scout plane crashed while towing a target during an offshore gunnery drill yesterday. Wreckage of their plane was towed into port. Names of the men were not revealed. They were towing a sleeve target for anti-aircraft practice when the line caught in the plane rudder. The plane crashed into the sea off San Clemente Island. It was from the dreadnaught Maryland.”

December 11, 1938. [NOTE FOR SALE ON EBAY]: “Seaplane crashed on San Clemente Island December 11, 1937. Both pilots were killed. Wreckage was found February 12, 1938. I was one of the searching party. B. C. Smith”

June 6, 1941 [Ottawa Journal]: “San Diego, Cal., June 6 — Two navy planes from the cruiser U.S.S. Chester collided near San Clemente Island, 40 miles off the mainland, today, killing three men and injuring a fourth. The 11th naval district headquarters announced that the accident occurred "during routine maneuvers." The victims were not immediately identified. Bodies of the three men killed in the crash were removed to a mortuary. The fourth man, seriously injured, was brought to the naval hospital here.”

January 31, 1948 [LAT]: “Two 25-year-old ensigns were killed when their Navy (SNJ) trainer crashed in the surf at San Clemente Island, it was announced by Los Alamitos Naval Air Station, where the reserevists took off on a temporary duty flight. They were identified as Arthur F. Berger, Jr., pilot, of San Diego, and Emery Papp of Imperial Beach. Berger leaves his mother, and Papp his widow and one son. The bodies of the men were recovered after the ship smashed into the water.”

June 5, 1949 [Santa Cruz Sentinel]: “One missing after navy fliers crash over Long Beach. Long Beach, June 4 — Two naval reserve fliers from the Los Alamitos navy air station collided this afternoon in their Grumman F6F planes at 12,000 feet. The wing of one plane was torn off and it plunged into the Pacific Ocean off San Clemente Island. Spectators said the pilot bailed out, but they did not see the parachute open. The pilot of the other plane, identified by navy sources as Lt. K. L. Nelson, 26, Los Angeles, managed to bring his fighter plane safely into the San Clemente air strip. The plane was badly battered. The planes collided high over the San Clemente Island gunnery range. Two Coast Guard cutters circled the area in which the missing pilot fell, but no trace of him or the wreckage was found. Identity of the missing pilot was withheld.”

June 6, 1952 [LAT]: “Two rescued from plane down in sea. Two Long Beach men were rescued from the ocean yesterday after their twin-engined amphibian plane was forced to land off Seal Beach due to a fuel line leak. The plane was being flown from San Clemente Island to Long Beach Municipal Airport by Robert A. Long of 5439 Ebell Street, with Robert E. Cook as his copilot, the Coast Guard reported. Before setting the craft down between Seal Beach and Surfside, Long radioed the field that they were out of gas. After landing in the water, Long and Cook crawled out on the wing and were spotted by the fishing boat Sunny. The plane was a Boeing 247-D owned by the Scott Flying Service of Long Beach, which has a government contract to operate between the mainland and San Clemente Island. The plane was swamped and soon sank in shallow water, but its owners believe it can be salvaged. Neither of the men was hurt.”

November 12, 1955 [LAT]: “San Diego, November 11. Five men were killed today when a naval attack bomber apparently on a simulated bombing run, dove into the destroyer USS Hopewell during joint United States-Canadian maneuvers. Five sailors were injured. The destroyer limped to port with the five bodies aboard after two other destroyers helped it put out fires started by the crash and explosion. The Navy identified the three men killed aboard the plane as Lt. Comdr. M.S. Essary, 40, pilot, of Coronado, Cal.; radarman R. S. Stewart, Punxsutawney, Pa., and B. M. Phillips, Jamaica, N. Y. Identity of the two destroyer crewmen killed was withheld pending notification of next of kin. Comdr. Mark M. Grandor, skipper of the Hopewell, said the plane struck the vessel between its two stacks on the starboard side. The plane’s engine came out on the port side. It disabled one of the ship’s engines. Pieces of the aircraft pierced down two decks…”

November 18, 1966 [LAT]: “The bodies of two men were recovered from the sea west of San Clemente Island after a Navy helicopter crashed. Two others were missing and three were rescued. One of those killed, the pilot, was identified as Comdr. William F. Todd, 37, of Chula Vista.”

June 18, 1978 [LAT]: “The Navy has recovered the body of a radar intercept officer whose Miramar-based F-14 Tomcat jet crashed at sea Thursday near San Clemente Island. The body of Lt. (j.g.) Steven S. Dalley, 27, of San Diego was found Friday evening east of San Clemente Island by Navy search and rescue crews. The search for pilot, Lt. Comdr. Scott Stallings, 35, of Solana Beach, is to resume this morning, a Navy spokeswoman said. The wreckage of the fighter plane was discovered Friday and a salvage attempt will be made, the spokeswoman said.”

September 14, 1981 [LAT]: “The body of a suspected marijuana smuggler was recovered Sunday from San Clemente Island where he had crashed his twin Beechcraft into a hillside, scattering 900 pounds of marijuana ‘all over the place,’ customs officials reported. Federal officials suspect that the plane crashed last February when the pilot, who was already known to law enforcement authorities, was returning from Mexico with a full cargo. ‘We can only suppose that he was off on his navigation and thought that he was still over water,’ said Pete Grootendorst, U.S. Customs air support branch chief. ‘He hit the mountain at about 200 feet elevation.’ The remains of the crash were discovered Friday by a Navy helicopter pilot who was flying over the section of San Clemente Island used by the Navy for target practice. The discovery of the crash has triggered investigations by a host of government agencies, including U.S. Customs, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Navy, which has a base on the island, the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office. Authorities would not identify the victim, but Grootendorst said that both the man and his airplane had been suspected of smuggling marijuana across the border…”

Marijuana-smuggling plane wrecked in 1981,
San Clemente Island
Photograph by W. T. Everett, 1997

June 4, 1983 [NTSB]: “Cessna 172RD [N4789R]: “The aircraft crashed on San Clemente Island during a fish spotting flight on a dark night. These flights are usually flown at an altitude of 1000-2000 feet. A navy witness on the accident island said the ceiling was zero and the visibility about 200 yards at the accident site about 40 minutes before the estimated time of the crash. The pilot was seriously injured and the aircraft destroyed in the accident. The aircraft was not found until 1415 hours on June 5. The pilot was hospitalized until June 11 and does not remember the accident. The elevation of the accident site is 1060 feet.”

June 4, 1983 [NTSB]: “The crew of a Navy helicopter rescued an injured private pilot from the wreckage of his plane that had crashed on the southern tip of San Clemente Island. Frank Inacono, age unknown, was flown to San Diego where he was treated at Balboa Naval Hospital for head injuries. The Torrance-based pilot was earlier reported overdue on a routine flight in his Cessna 172 over the Channel Islands.”

October 12, 1985 [LAT]: “Tense copter rescue. Stranded Navy jet plucked from airfield on Island. San Clemente Island — It wasn't nearly as daring as Navy pilots intercepting a planeload of hijackers over the Mediterranean, but the Navy's rescue Friday of a stranded TA-3B reconnaissance plane provided some tense moments for the crew aboard the aircraft carrier Cal Vinson ans a Super Stallion helicopter. Navy pilots lifted the plane, which crash-landed in August on this desolate island, off the runway and carried it three miles offshore to the Vinson. The most difficult part of the complex salvage operation occurred moments before the 16-ton plane was dropped on the carrier's flight deck as the aircraft began swaying in 110m.p.h. down winds generated by the helicopter's seven rotor blades. Although the actual landing lasted only three minutes, the wind gusts forced the helicopter pilots to make several attempts before they could gently set the plane on an elevator platform. At one point, they came close to sending the plane over the edge of the carrier. "They had obviously planned it very, very extensively," said Vice Adm. James Service, commander of the Navy's Pacific Fleet Air Force, who observed the entire operation from a second helicopter perched above the ocean. "It went off exactly as briefed. It could have been a complete flop if they had not handled it so beautifully." Perhaps the most dramatic moment came after the CH-53E helicopter finished the mission and attempted to land next to the plane. As the helicopter came within a few feet of parking on the Vinson's deck, the TA-3B began to rock in the wind. "This is not bright," Cmdr. Ed Brown said while watching the plane tremble from his front row seat in the Vinson's air operations control tower. Then, before the helicopter pilot could touch down and blow the plane off the deck, Capt, Ruch Wolter barked, "Move it off! Take it up!" The helicopter then lifted up and landed about 15 yards away from the wrecked plane. The salvage operation marked the first time in recent memory that the Navy has hoisted a plane from a remote location to an aircraft carrier, said Navy spokesman Tom Jurkowsky. Whenplanes crash, they usually are either retrieved on land or lost at sea. But Navy officials were left scratching their heads on Aug. 23 when a pilot flying training missions out of Miramar Naval Air Station landed the TA-3B six feet short of the runway on the island. The plane skidded 3,000 feet before it came to a stop, resting on the tip of its right wing...”

March 6, 1986 [LAT]: “Civilian planes working for Navy. 4 die as Learjets collide near island. Four fliers were killed Wednesday morning when two civilian Learjets under contract to the Navy collided near San Clemente Island while on a radar training exercise. Each of the twin-engine executive jets had two crew members, said Gary Tabbert, general manager of World Flight International, which provided the planes. Debris from the jets was recovered by Navy ships and planes that searched the area, about 27 miles southeast of San Clemente Island, said a Navy spokesman, Chief Petty Officer Paul Versilles. The collision occurred at 10:15 a.m. while the two planes were taking part in a training exercise involving the San Diego-based guided-missile cruiser Gridley, said Lt. Cmdr. Connie Haney of the Naval Surface Force. The jets were simulating attacks on the ship, which would track the jets with radar and practice battle tactics, Tabbert said, adding that the Navy has been using jets contracted from the Carlsbad-based company for six years. The company previously had provided four of the jets and two smaller turboprop planes for the Navy in San Diego. Providing planes for the military is the company's "bread-and-butter", Tabbert said. A spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) near Los Angeles confirmed that two fliers in each plane had been killed. Neither the Navy nor the company would confirm the report by the safety board, nor would they identify the fliers. Safety inspector Jeff Rich said the agency will not investigate the accident unless the Navy requests one. Tabbert said the company will hold its own investigation. "We will examine the circumstances surrounding this accident," Tabbert said. "It was such a routine exercise. We can't understand why it happened, and we want to know. We owe it to the families, if nothing else, to find out." Navy officials planed to resume a search of the crash area this morning.”

October 18, 1990 [LAT]: “Rescue teams searched unsuccessfully Wednesday for the pilot of a Marine Corps F/A-18A Hornet that crashed in the ocean Tuesday night while on a routine training exercise near San Clemente Island, military officials said. Navy and Coast Guard search-and-rescue teams on Wednesday combed more than 480 square miles of ocean between San Clemente and Santa Catalina islands for the single-seat jet aircraft and its pilot, Marine Lt. Mark J. Gelgean, 27, of Hanford, Calif.”