1966 Jet Bomber crash between Yellowtail and Rowena probably the worst

One of the hazards of residing so close to a major (at least, at one-time) military airport is that sometimes the planes that are going up have on very rare occasions gone down — that has happened at least three times in Rossmoor.l

There were a number of crashes at the base when it was first utilized as a World War II training base beginning in 1942 and then when it became an aircraft carrier support base in 1943.  Some were mentioned in this collection of memories of Bomber Group 19 (VF-19) which trained at Los Alamitos in the second half of 1943 before shipping out and being a assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington and taking part of some of the major battles of the Pacific air war.

We learned of two crashes in 1950 and 1951.  On April 16, 1950, a North American Aviation  FJ-1 Fury swerved off runway during landing at NAS Los Alamitos NAS,.  And just over one year later, on May 9.951, another Fury (VF-778) stalled on waveoff Los Alamitos NAS.

It is quite possible there were even more crashes in the fields in the late 1940s and early 1950s when Rossmoor and “south Los Alamitos” and “College Park East” were still nothing but bean fields. and gleams in developers’ eyes.    The Wattes had a farm where Sprouts now stands, but other than that there was little but bean fields and some rifle ranges at the south end of the air base.

It was only when Rossmoor was first beginning to develop that the crashes became more problematic.  The September 30, 1956 edition of the Enterprise mentions the following crash:

30 SEP 1956 — 3 FLYERS DIE IN CRASH. – a twin-engine Navy anti-submarine plane from VS 772 crashed into a sugar beet field shortly after taking off from the NAS Los Alamitos at 10:30am Saturday. The three men in its crew were killed instantly.  The plane was a Grumman S2F Sentinel radio training mission.
Killed in the crash were Commander Frederick E. Kroeger, USNR, Pacoima; Lt. William T. Kirk, USNR, Van Nuys; and Lieutenant (junior grade) Dennis S. Weibel, USNR, of San Diego.

The most damaging crash occurred ten years later, in 1966 when when a Douglas A4-8 Skyhawk crashed in southern Rossmoor about 3:35 in the afternoon, clipping several small trees and then plummeting into a ball of fire.   (see article to left) Wreckage “scattered along a wide area between Rowena and Yellowtail Drives and in an open space north of the San Dioego Freeway.”  (This was before the completion and opening of the 605 freeway.)   Amazingly no one was killed, or even seriously injured, even though bits and chunks of the plane ripped through roofs and windows and started scores of small fires.

Now that the Navy has left, and the facility is basically an army air base, the primary aircraft are helicopters — and transport planes  who use the strip at limited airtimes.  And of course, on rare occasions, Air Force One has been known to land and take off there.

3 thoughts on “Airplane Crashes in Rossmoor”
  1. i remember that day and night very clearly.. it was a typical foggy Rossmoor night and almost impossible to see 20 feet in front of us.. i seem to recall that Walt Disney died that day…

  2. Here’s what I recall from that day:
    My College Park East (CPE) classmates and I had just boarded our school bus and were on our way to pick up other CPE students at the next stop at Rush Elementary School. (All CPE elementary students at that time were enrolled in various schools in the Los Al Elemenary School Dist. depending on their grade level.) While driving on Gertrude along the school grounds, our bus driver Jerri Sawyer pointed to the right at a rising column of smoke in the distance, verbally wondering what had just happened. It was still sunny and clear at that time of day when the accident occurred. It was only sometime afterwards that the fog rolled in, probably within an hour or so after the plane crashed.

  3. I too remember that day clearly. I grew up on Silver fox between Rowena and Yellowtail. My cousin and I were playing in the backyard. We saw the plane coming down and ran inside to tell our mothers that the plane was going to crash, before the words ” No honey, the plane isn’t going to crash” were out of my mother’s mouth we heard the explosion.The pilot ejected into the garage door of the house across the street.

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