HUGHES, Robert (1924-1960)[SS#546-32-2419], 38, died on December 23 from injuries sustained in an accidental explosion on December 13 on San Clemente Island. He was 36 years old.
In the News~
December 14, 1960 [Evening Independent]: “San Diego, Calif. — A shattering explosion rocked the U.S. Navy missile test station on San Clemente Island last night, killing one man and injuring three others, the Navy reported. A spokesman for the 11th Naval District said a cylinder containing highly pressurized gas used in rocket testing exploded during a test of a missile. Killed instantly was Hubert J. Stanfill, 30, a Navy ordnance man normally stationed at China Lake, Calif. Injured were James Crowder, 36, a guard of Garden Grove, Calif.; Jess Moss, 38, a Navy technician from China Lake. The test station at the island, located about 60 miles off the San Diego County coast, conducts experimental missile firings programmed by Navy in Pasadena, Calif. The Navy declined to give additional details of the explosion. The cylinder involved reportedly was of a JATO type used in the so-called jet-assisted-takeoff of airplanes. The San Clemente Island test site is highly restricted. Vessels are prohibited from approaching within a mile.”
December 15, 1960 [San Bernardino County Sun]: “China Lake civilian killed in navy missile testing. San Diego — Rocket testing at the U.S. Navy missile test station on San Clemente Island has claimed its first life. The navy said Hubert J. Stanfill, 41, civilian ordnance from the Naval Ordnance Test Station (NOTS) at China Lake, Calif., was killed instantly Tuesday night in a rocket explosion that injured three other men. Under treatment at Long Beach Veterans Hospital are: Jess Moss, 38, navy electrician of 3887 Xiemo St., Long Beach, in serious condition from second degree burns and third degree burns over 20 to 25 per cent of his body. Robert Hughes, 36, civilian ordnanceman from China Lake NOTS, in serious to poor condition from severe burns and shock. James Crowder, 37, a guard of Garden Grove, in good condition with second degree and third degree burns on the face, arms, hands and knees. The explosion occurred during tests on a secret rocket project. The navy said the rocket motor ignited prematurely. Capt. Charles J. Beers, commanding officer, said Stanfill's death is the first fatality in navy rocket tests on San Clemente Island, which is about 60 miles off San Diego.”