BASSETT, Wallace Dean
BASSETT, Wallace Dean (1916-1966) [SS#564-32-2600], pilot who owned Bassett Flying Service, the first air company to regularly fly to Santa Cruz Island. Based out of Santa Paula, Wally Bassett and his employee pilots flew hunters, guides, and gear to and from the Christy Ranch for six years.
On the morning of March 8, 1966 three planes loaded with hunters set out for Christy Ranch, and only one plane returned. In two coincidentally separate incidents, two of the planes crashed, killing a total of seven people. The first plane, piloted by Bassett with two guides and three hunters aboard, crashed on the northwest slope of the island prior to landing The second plane with only the pilot aboard, crashed after take-off from Christy Ranch into the south-facing slope of a mountain. Fog and perhaps unusual winds were blamed for the crashes. Wally Bassett was 49 years old.
In the News~
March 9, 1966 [SBNP]: "Seven persons, including two Santa Barbarans, were killed in crashes of two private planes on Santa Cruz Island yesterday morning. The victims were identified as Ted Shatt and Gordon Ridge, Santa Barbara hunting guides; Wallace Bassett and R. L. Wallace, Santa Paula pilots, and Jack L. Wheeler, Dr. John C. Gilbert and Claude G. Casey, all of Las Vegas. A third plane, piloted by John Grentzer of Camarillo, deposited its passengers on the island and returned safely to the mainland. Authorities reported that the three planes had been chartered to take the Las Vegas party to the island to hunt wild boar and sheep. Bassett, a veteran pilot and owner of the Bassett Flying Service in Santa Paula, took off from Santa Paula at about 7:30 A.M. on the 20-minute flight to the island. He had delayed his takeoff an hour because of bad weather. He radioed the federal aviation agency tower at Municipal Airport here at 8 A.M. that he had found a hole in the fog and that he was going in for a landing The crash must have occurred minutes later, authorities said. The FAA said that Bassett had not filed a flight plan with it. The three hunters from Las Vegas and the two Santa Barbarans were aboard his plane. Neither Wallace nor Grentzer had any idea what had happened to the Bassett plane as they took off from Santa Paula between 8:20 and 8:25. Wallace deposited his passengers and crashed on a hill on the return trip. He was alone when it crashed. On the island today and awaiting boat passage back were the hunters flown in by Wallace and Grentzer. They are Merle Richards, Dan Roscoe, Frank Koviah, Gary McPherson, and Mr. and Mrs. L. R. Scott, all of Las Vegas. The two guides and the hunters were in a party sponsored by Rick Lagomarsino, younger brother of State Senator Robert Lagomarsino, and Bill Huffman of Ventura. On his return to Santa Paula, Grentzer became concerned over what had happened to the other two planes. He flew back to the island with the younger Lagomarsino aboard, and the latter spotted the wreckage of the Bassett plane. Grentzer notified the Coast Guard by radio, and two helicopters, two cutters and a navy amphibian responded. The bodies were taken to the naval base at Point Mugu, officials said. The searchers were guided to the scene of the Wallace crash by a ranch hand. Santa Cruz Island, about 25 miles offshore, has an area of 60,000 square miles [sic]. It is the largest in the channel chain. It is privately owned and used primarily for grazing cattle, but is periodically leased for hunting. Bassett was described as an experienced pilot having flown to the islands countless times during the past quarter century. He is said to have had a healthy respect for the quick-forming fog and gusty winds that make flying there difficult at times. Sheriff-Coroner James W. Webster said that he turned investigation of the crashes over to civil aeronautics board officials. His office and that of the Ventura county coroner worked together in the identification and disposition of the bodies. Officials of the Ventura county coroner's office, sheriff's department and the FAA were en route to the island by boat today. Also in the party were Lagomarsino and Dr. Carey Q. Stanton, a representative of the Santa Cruz Island Company, owner of a major part of the island. Reports from the island indicated that neither of the crashed planes burned. One body was reported thrown clear of the wreckage. The others — all badly mangled — were inside the the planes. Lagomarsino said that the Bassett plane did not appear from the air to be demolished, and he thought at first that the passengers only had been injured. The bodies of Bassett and Wallace were at Santa Paula mortuaries, and the Santa Barbarans' and the Las Vegas hunters were at mortuaries in Oxnard. Ridge's address was listed as 1975 Old San Marcos Road, and Shatt's address was unknown. Ridge reportedly was a mechanic working in Camarillo."
April 21, 1966 [SBNP]: "The widow of a Nevada bar owner killed in a plane crash on Santa Cruz Island March 8 has filed a $850,000 claim against the estate of Santa Paula pilot Wallace Dean Bassett, who also died in the crash. The claim, on file today in Ventura Superior Court, was when two planes crashed into hillsides on the island. Bassett, 49, was the owner of Bassett Flying Service, Santa Paula. The pilot of the other plane was Raleigh L. Wallace, 59, also of Santa Paula. Mrs. Casey's claim said Bassett was guilty of "negligent conduct" and "willful misconduct" in the crash on the fog-shrouded island. The two Santa Paula pilots and a third plane, which did not crash, were flying a party of Las Vegas hunters to the island to hunt wild boar and sheep."