C119 Hits Pallet Mountain

Four Air Force Reservists Die as C-119 Hits Mountain

A giant C-119 cargo plane based at March Field in Riverside slammed into Pallet Mountain 12 miles northwest of Wrightwood Friday evening killing the four Air Force reservists aboard.

The dead were identified as: USAF Reserve Major Elvin Estes of La Puente, the aircraft commander, and a Sergeant in the narcotics division of the Los Angeles Police Department. He is survived by a wife and a son. USAF Reserve Captain Norman Gassman of San Diego, stability engineer for a San Diego Aerospace firm, survived by his wife and two daughters. USAF Reserve Capt. Raymond Miller of Riverside an insurance agent who leaves his wife, Nancy. USAF Reserve Staff Sgt. Roger DuCharime, of Sunnymeade, a federal civil service employee. His wife, Mary and a son and daughter survive.

Local law enforcement officials were alerted to the crash by Philip Lewis who resides at Crothers Creek in Pearblossom. He reported observing what he described as a fireball plunge into a mountainside while driving. His observations were confirmed by his sons, when he arrived home. They said they had seen a plane fly low over the area, then hear a loud crash seconds later.

US Forestry Service officials, AV Sheriff's possemen and fire camp crews were immediately alerted. After crashing, the plane touched off a brush fire, burned about five acres before controlled.

Members of the camp crews found the wreckage in an isolated area shortly after 2 AM yesterday. The bodies were later flown to George AFB.

George officials said the plane was last in communications with the Palmdale Airport at 9 PM, was to have returned to Riverside. It was on a routine training mission.


Date:October 1, 1966

Informant: LEWIS, Phillip MW/42

Victim #1: "CASSMAN"

Victim #2: "JOHN DOE"

Victim #3: "JOHN DOE"

Location: North slope of Pallet Mountain

Informant stated that while driving between Crothers Creek Road and his residence, he observed a large fireball at location, which lasted approximately thirty to forty seconds, then started dying down. Upon his arrival home his boys stated they had seen a large plane flying low and slowly pass in front of the moon, and a short time later observed the fireball and heard a loud crash.

Undersigned then contacted Philip Mc Farland, who stated that he had been talking to his wife when he observed a large fireball at location.

Unit 110 S, Sgt. Joseph Becker and undersigned, with the aid of the US Forest Service, attempted to pinpoint the location which was south and east of informant's residence, and after driving as far as possible up Devil's Canyon located the scene at which time we were joined by Unit 110R Deputy John Nybakken, 111P, Jack Bones, AVS Posse Captain, and several posse members.

After checking the forestry maps it was found the quickest way to get to the location was from Mount Islip Saddle, at which time all of the above drove to Mt Islip Saddle where we were joined by Unit 302A Deputy Douglas Dickinson, four camp crews, other units of the US Forestry Service, and O.M. Lippert, Chief of IT&T Security at Plant 42. Chief Lippert stated that he had received information that the aircraft involved might possibly be an AC119 Flying Boxcar No. 533195AF, stationed at March AFB, with possibly four persons on board, which had been heard from at 2130 hours, this date.

At 2:15AM 10/1/66, fire camp crew 18-1 arrived at the location of the crash and reported finding an engine, and shortly thereafter, at 2:21 AM, reported finding the first body, badly mangled.

By 3:15 AM the camp crew had reported finding four bodies, with the identification of one, last name only, of "Cassman", and the service number FV1910460. Also reported the number of the aircraft to be #533195.

March AFB was notified and will handle recovery operations.

Undersigned were advised to return to the station at this time with Unit 110R, to gather any further information.


In November of 1996, I flew to the scene of the C-119 accident in a Bell 47 helicopter.

I took several photos of the wreckage from the air. I saw one of the C-119's large tail booms and numerous other pieces of wreckage that were strewn all over the mountainside. The crash site is located high atop 8000-foot Pallet Mountain, about four-miles by foot south of the Devil's Punchbowl County Park, in Pearblossom.

While circling the mountain to gain altitude I spotted the wreckage of another plane, a C46, (see related story) that had crashed on the north slope of Pallet Mountain in 1944. The entire tail section of the plane is intact and has a pine tree growing through the center of it.

After I left Pallet Mountain, I flew in a westerly direction and found yet another wreck! This one was a C-130 that exploded in mid-air and rained parts down over a large area about five-miles west of the Pallet Mountain wreck sites. Later I learned that the C-130 (see related story) was a US Forest Service fire fighting aircraft that was enroute on a fire fighting mission when one of the wing tanks unexpectedly exploded causing the crash. This particular accident, that took the lives of three people, occurred about a year ago.

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