Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

The DC-6 Crash
Balboa Golf Course
Van Nuys

February 8, 1976


  Engine trouble forced the pilot of a Mercer Enterprises charter DC-6 to attempt an emergency landing at Van Nuys Airport on the drizzling Sunday morning of February 8, 1976.  Losing power, the aircraft with only a flight crew aboard, pancaked onto the Woodley Golf Course near the airport.  The aircraft skipped a quarter-of-a-mile across the fairways, smashed through a starter's shack and stopped near Victory Boulevard and Havenhurst Avenue.
  First-arriving firefighters thought they heard voices in the smashed cockpit.  While Firefighter Pat Leddy of Truck 88 prepared to use a rotary saw to cut into the cockpit, Firefighter Raymond H. Walker of Task Force 90 and other firefighters laid a foam blanket and stood by with foam and water supply lines.
    The saw, striking a stainless steel fitting, broadcast a shower of sparks which ignited vapors from leaking fuel. Firefighters standing inside the flames attempted to flee.  Capt. Larry D. Parke of Engine 90 stumbled and fell into the fire.  Parke, Walker and Apparatus Operator Thomas F. Schmitz of Task Force 90 suffered severe burns.  Six other firefighters and Rescue-Ambulance 104 Operator Ronald A. Spiers, Jr., suffered less serious burns and smoke inhalation.
  Later investigations showed the pilot, first officer and flight engineer died upon impact.  Two stewardesses and a steward trainee escaped with minor injuries.

By Paul Ditzel
"A Century of Service"


Three persons died and ten firemen were injured, five of whom were hospitalized, when this DC 6 attempted an emergency landing at the Balboa Golf Course in Van Nuys.
  High Octane fuel exploded into flames engulfing the firemen, cockpit and forward section of the downed airplane during rescue operations.  Three aircraft employees escaped from the wreckage.
Top photo shows firemen being doused with foam moments after being caught in the flash fire.
Bottom photo--Firemen have regained control of the highly volatile fuel and proceed to extinguish the fire.

Top photo by Rich McClure: bottom photo by Mike Mullen.



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