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Subject: Re: Plane Crash at Richies School

David UK
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Date Posted: Sun July 18, 2021 17:18:58
In reply to: Larry 's message, "Re: Plane Crash at Richies School" on Tue July 13, 2021 14:26:13


I've seen the site you mention and heard the recording. I've researched the crash of January 31st 1957, quite a bit.

If memory serves me right, the girl making the speech was Gail Smith, and the crash happened just as she read the line "Now that we have one life to live", theres the noise of the sonic boom as the wreckage of the DC-3 freight plane comes down like a meteor onto the sports field and yard of Pacoima Junior High. (The banging noises heard are doors being blown open by the pressure of the impact) The principle is heard reassuring the pupils that its "just a sonic boom" as these were common, from passing jet traffic)

A P.E. class was just finishing and the students looked on in terror as the plane hurtled down towards them. Its collison with a USAF jet fighter plane high over the San Fernando Valley had seen it have a wing sheered off and the crew radioed that it was out of control and even managed to say "uncontrollable...we're going in. I knew we shouldve had chutes (parachutes). Say goodbye to everyone..." (the Jet crashed into La Tuna Canyon, the co pilot ejected and survived...landed in Burbank. The pilot is thought to have stayed at the controls to guide it out of an urban area, very brave. He died in the wreckage) All the crew of the DC-3 perished.

The freight plane broke up as it spiralled to earth, with parts landing in and around the school and the church next door. A large piece fell through the roof of a nearby house and just missed landing on a baby. Wreckage rained down on the area.
The scene at the school was one of catastrophe. Many young students, mostly boys, were injured or seriously burned from the aviation fuel as it was sprayed all over the site. The P.E. teacher worked tirelessly to do what he could for his students..he was labelled a 'hero'. Three boys were hit and killed by the falling pieces of the plane, Ronnie Brann, Bobby Zallan, and Evan Elsner. They were 12-13 years of age. Ronnie Brann was actually buried into the tarmac of the yard by one of the engines. You have to think that mercifully it must have been instantaneous. God bless him. His mother recalled later that he had been playing with a model of a Dc-3 plane at breakfast that very morning. Life sure has some strange coincidences, doesnt it?

No more so than young Richard Valenzuela being away from school that morning, to attend his grandfather (Frank Reyes) funeral at the San Fernando Mission Cemetery, where Ronnie Brann would also be laid to rest, as would Ritchie Valens himself, two years later.
The accident saw to legislation changes regarding flying over the valley and urban areas. It also gave more reason for a hospital to be built and opened in the valley, as the scale of injuries in the incident had medical centres pushed to their limits.

A terrible tragic event.

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