Topics - C47D Crash
near Wells and Elko, Nevada
December 10, 1952

 
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Introduction

 
On December 10, 1952, a C-47D with the tail number 44-76447 crashed on a mountain range in Nevada during windy, icy weather.  There were six fatalities.

According to an article on page one of the Albuquerque Journal (December 12, 1952), "Searching planes ranged over a 300-mile, three-state area without success today seeking the missing plane. More than 30 military and civilian planes swarmed over northeastern Nevada, western Utah and part of southern Idaho. Rancher Joe Vignolo of La Moille, 20 miles southeast of Elko, Nevada, in the Ruby mountains, notified search headquarters at Elko that he heard what sounded like a circling airplane about 2 p.m. yesterday. The C-47 was last heard from by radio over the northeastern Nevada-Utah border."

Probable cause of the crash: "While flying under IFR, the pilot did not maintain sufficient drift correction to stay within the airway, and extreme downdrafts caused the aircraft to descend approximately 1,300 feet below the assigned altitude." [Source: Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Achives]

 Details about the crash can be found in an official Air Force crash report.  See details (found on www.rubymountains.net) below. 


Event Details

On December 10, 1952, C-47 AF44-76447 piloted by Major Joseph Scurzi departed Peterson AFB, Colorado Springs, CO, destination Stead AFB, NV, and 15 minutes later C-47 AF43-49553 piloted by 1st Lt Hans Hansen departed Peterson AFB for the same destination. The route would cross northern Nevada.

Pilots were briefed on the weather that was considered visual from Peterson Field to Sinclair, WY Radio and on instruments from that point to Reno Radio. Ogden, UT and Elko, NV reported 5,000 foot overcast ceilings with 15 to 50 mile visibilities and scattered snow showers. Winds were given as 20-30 knots at the 12,000 foot flight altitude.

Major Scurzi later reported that wind was stronger than what was forecasted and estimated to be 45 knots. Turbulent conditions had not been mentioned during the weather briefings, but extreme turbulence was encountered at the intersection of the Lucin, UT and Elko Radio Ranges. Light rime ice was encountered that required occasional use of wing de-icer boots, prop de-icer, and carburetor de-icing fluid. Major Scurzi indicated that at no time were the icing conditions considered dangerous and all de-icing equipment worked satisfactorily.

Major Scurzi heard Ogden radio station acknowledging Lt Hansen's position report over Lucin station. At the intersection of the Lucin and Elko Radio Ranges, Major Scurzi encountered such extreme turbulence that required both he and the co-pilot to be on the controls in order to maintain level flight. Their aircraft lost approximately 800 feet altitude upon initial entry into the turbulent down draft and the wind drift to the south was stronger at that point. The turbulence lasted 10-15 minutes and required lowering the landing gears to help stabilize the aircraft. It was necessary to make several large corrections of about 50 degrees to the right to get back on the course of the Elko Range. After passing Elko Radio, Major Scurzi's aircraft heard Elko Radio trying to contact Lt. Hansen's aircraft but without success. Battle Mountain, Lovelock and Reno Radio also tried to contact but without success.

Search and rescue aircraft from Hamilton AFB and Stead AFB were sent out to look for the overdue C-47 and two days later on December 12th, the crashed aircraft was spotted at an elevation of approximately 10,700 feet on the east slope of the East Humboldt range between Wells and Elko, NV. The downed aircraft was reached by the rescue party on December 13th. (Several peaks in this area, including Hole in the Mountain Peak where the aircraft crashed, exceed 11,000 feet.) The crash location is approximately 13 miles to the left of the centerline of the Elko Radio Range. A rancher about seven miles east of the scene reported later that he heard a large aircraft around 1500 MST but could not see it due to the low overcast and snowstorm.

Capt. Edward W. Morris, USAF 41st Air Rescue Squadron, Hamilton AFB, CA, who was part of the rescue operation provided the following information: Approximately 60 feet from the top of the ridge south of the crash, the party found a large piece of metal, presumably an engine cowling. As we progressed further down the mountain, a small door was found about 80 feet from the cowling. This door was singed on the inside but not badly burned. The main wreckage was about 250 feet from the ridge. (Another document, source of information not shown, indicates the main wreckage was 500 yards from the initial point of impact.)

The fuselage was badly damaged and split in two from the rear door to the tail. The right wing was comparatively intact and one engine was detached and setting by the wing. It appeared to be badly damaged. (Ken Hammond and I located the second engine the following summer some distance below the primary crash location.) Capt. Morris reported that it appeared gasoline had been scattered for a distance of 60 feet surrounding the aircraft since all the rocks in the area were blackened. The aircraft had been carrying 400 gallons of gasoline in the forward fuselage tanks.

Since the rescue party was in great haste to leave the mountain before darkness, very little interest was centered on looking for valves, switches, etc. Capt. Morris had the opportunity to look at the altimeter panel instrument but both hands were not present. It was noted that a watch located on one of the victims was stopped at 2155. He stated that the area was accessible only because of the perfect weather conditions during the two day trek to the wreckage. He advised that inexperienced personnel keep off the mountain until such time that the snow melts. All personnel onboard suffered fatal injuries.


Fatalities

  • Hansen, 1Lt. Hans E. (pilot)
     
  • Boozer, 1Lt. James V. (co-pilot)
     
  • Barlow, 1Lt. Harry E. (navigator)
     
  • Mateja, M/Sgt. Richard W. (radio operator)
     
  • Olson, A/2C Allyn B. (flight engineer)
     
  • Evans, James A. (passenger)

Biographies of Fatalities

Barlow, Harry Earl

Lieutenant Barlow was born April 15, 1925 in Elgin, Illinois, son of Farnsworth Barlow (1895-1975) and Elizabeth Irwin Barlow (1896-1974).  His wife was Carol Barlow.  His sister was Betty Lee Barlow (1931-1937).  Lieutenant Barlow, a World War II and Korea veteran, is buried in Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, California.

Boozer, James Vernon

Lieutenant Boozer was born April 1, 1923 in Calhoun County, Alabama, son of John Lawrence Boozer (1898-1986) and Mamie Janet Watson (1906-1995).  His wife was Sarah Ethelyn Graham Boozer (1921-2001).  James and Sarah are buried in Pleasant Valley Baptist Church Cemetery, Angel, Alabama.  Lieutenant Boozer escaped death in a crash landing at Pederson Air Field near Colorado Springs just a week before this fatal crash.

Evans, James A. "Jimmy"

Jimmy Evans was born December 12, 1932 in Monett, Missouri, a son of Joseph Leo Evans and Jessie Earle Melton Evans (1896-1991).  His siblings were Mary E. Clevenger (1917-1955), Emily Lee Clevenger (1919-2007), Priscilla Standefer (1939-1958), Willa May Fischer (1921-2000), Eva Goigle, Gertrude Thomas, Jean Roush, Ruth Sanders, and Joe Evans.  Jimmy is buried in the Monett IOOF Cemetery.

Hansen, Hans Eugene

Lieutenant Hansen was born January 4, 1925 in North Platte, Nebraska, son of Hans and Mary Wilgus Hansen.  He was the husband of Helen Ruth Lorenz Hansen (1923-2018).  He is buried in the North Platte Cemetery.  He was a World War II and Korean War veteran.

Mateja, Richard William

Richard was born September 11, 1922 in Nebraska, son of Ignac and Frances Mateja.  He had one brother, Ladislav "Laddie" Robert Mateja, who died at age 30 in 1952.  KWE research indicates that he had a wife Anna and one child, but this has not been confirmed.  Richard is buried in Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, California.

Olson, Allyn Boyd

Allyn Olson was born October 18, 1931 in Albert City, Iowa, son of Clee H. Olson (1905-1985) and Esther E. Olson (1906-1994).  He is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery, Jolley, Iowa.  It is believed that his wife was Marjorie Olson, but the KWE has not confirmed this.


 

 
 

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