Accident Beechcraft F-2 40-686,
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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 95927
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Date:Tuesday 6 January 1942
Type:Beechcraft F-2
Owner/operator:United States Army Air Force (USAAF)
Registration: 40-686
Fatalities:Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 3
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:Pilot Rock, 15 mi SE of Ashland, OR -   United States of America
Phase: En route
Departure airport:Gray Field, Ft Lewis, Washington
Destination airport:Sacramento
On 6 January 1942, the twin-engine Beechcraft F-2 40-686, a military plane used for high-elevation photography (the F-2 being the phot-reconnaissance version of the AT-7 type airplane) took off at 0856 hrs from Gray Field, Ft Lewis, Washington, for a ferry flight to the Sacramento air depot in California. Aboard were one pilot, 1st Lt. Raymond A. Stockwell of Spokane, Washington, and two passengers, T/Sgt Randolph Jones of Joplin, Montana, and T/Sgt Paul W. Stone of Bayside, Texas. At that time, this aircraft was not assigned to any USAAF unit.

Stockwell knew the route well, having flown this course for a number of years. But that experience didn’t bail out the veteran pilot late on this morning. Speeding south over Medford at 4,000 feet, he reported at 1049 or 1053 hrs depending on sources that he was encountering freezing rain. That was his last transmission. Weather in the area at the time of the crash was reported as heavy fog, freezing rain, snow, and extremely limited visibility. The aircraft was reported missing.

Although a search was launched immediately after the plane disappeared, a winter storm swept into the mountains shortly after the crash, covering all the evidence with a heavy blanket of snow. Between 9 January and 18 February, several searches for the airplane and crew were conducted without success. The crash site wasn’t discovered until 8 June of that year by Ashland resident George Eliza Miller, a fire warden for the state of Oregon.

The aircraft had crashed at about 1100 hrs head-on into the Pilot Rock, a volcanic plug left jutting up into the air by surrounding material that had eroded over the eons, 15 mi southeast of Ashland, Oregon. Pilot Rock rises 5,914 feet above sea level just north of the Oregon line in the Siskiyou Mountains, approximately four miles east by trail of highway 99 at the summit of the Siskiyou mountains and about 1 3/5 miles north of the Oregon-California state line. It is now part of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. The rock served as a guide for settlers crossing the pass between what is now Oregon and California - hence the name. It didn’t guide Stockwell that day, however. The cloud ceiling was 5,000 feet, well below the base of the rock. The aircraft crashed head-on into the rock about 50 feet from the base on the northeast side, at an estimated speed of 180 mph. The aircraft was demolished, and the aviators received crushed skulls and other injuries from which they met instant death. The official accident report conclusions were that "it is believed that the pilot was forced to fly at a low altitude because of severe icing conditions and encountered the rock pinnacle with which he collided."

George Miller’s son, Bob, and four other young people decided to go to the crash site. Their Model-A Ford huffed and puffed all the way to the top of the Siskiyou Summit, and they then hiked east to Pilot Rock. In 2002 one of them, Edna Yockel Wray, now 74, recalled the trip:
"I remember there was an engine and all kinds of pictures - photographs of mountain ranges," she said. "Parts of that plane were strewn all over." Skeletal remains were also scattered about, she said. "This is kind of grisly, but I happened to be walking along by the rock and there was a hand, just bones, lying there," she said. "There was a man’s gold ring on one finger. I took two sticks and took it off." The ring had a missing stone, she said. "I have no idea what happened to that ring," she said. "I had it for a few years but it kind of vanished."

A Medford mortician retrieved the skeletal remains on June 11 and immediately shipped them off for burial to their respective hometowns.

Nearly a decade later, in 1951, 24-year old Bob Erdman heard about the old plane crash from a fellow choker setter working in the woods near Hilt just south of the Oregon border. One weekend that spring found Erdman hiking up to Pilot Rock, the site of the crash. "It was curiosity that drew me up there - I’ve always been interested in airplanes," recalled in 2002 the 1949 graduate of Yreka High School.

"The outer wing panels were still there along with engine parts, a part of the cabin and some twisted cable," he added. "And down in the rock slide right below Pilot Rock, I recovered part of a harmonica. That’s also where I found skull fragments." Not wanting to leave the bleached bones lying among the debris scattered on the remote ridge, Erdman gently gathered them up. He also packed out a few small engine parts. "I was always curious who those skull pieces belonged to - I kept them over the years," he said.

Although the activities of youth, marriage and a career as a mechanic for the Cessna Aircraft Co. for 38 years preoccupied him over the years, Erdman never forgot the bone fragments. "I had asked people about it when I lived there in Northern California," he said. "A lot of people knew about the crash but nobody knew the date when it happened." Finally, in 1997, after several unsuccessful attempts to find out about the crash over the years, he received an official copy of the crash report from the U.S. Air Force. A summary of a similar report was published in the June 11, 1942, issue of the Mail Tribune.

After discovering the names of those who died in the crash but unable to determine who the bones belonged to, Erdman still had one last mission to accomplish. That mission was on his mind when he attended his 50th high school reunion in Yreka in 1999. He made a private side trip to Beaver Creek, a tributary to the Klamath River some two dozen miles south of Pilot Rock. There, he gently buried the skull fragments and had a quiet moment for the three who died in the 1942 air crash. "It was a secluded spot along the creek," he said. "It was something I had to do. I wanted them to be in a place where they would never be disturbed again."

"Fatal Army Air Forces Aviation Accidents in the United States, 1941-1945. Volume 1, January 1941-June 1943", by Anthony J. Mireles. ISBN 0-7864-2788-4,_Oregon%29

Revision history:

07-Jan-2016 12:31 Laurent Rizzotti Updated [Time, Total fatalities, Total occupants, Location, Phase, Nature, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]

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