POSTED: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 9:12pm
UPDATED: Monday, December 16, 2013 - 10:26am
El Paso, TX (KTSM) — Sixty years ago Wednesday, the Borderland was covered in a snowy, foggy haze. Some say that played a role in why a pilot crashed a huge bomber into the Franklin Mountains.
Nine people died in the accident, including one civilian. It happened December 11th, 1953.
A pilot, two majors, five crew members and a civilian were flying a B36 bomber called the Peacemaker from Fort Worth to El Paso. Lietenant Colonel Herman Gerrick was a little turned around.
"tThere's a lot of talk in the report about whether he was familiar with the El Paso area," said historian David Etzold. "Whether he had even studied whether there was a mountain coming down the center of the city or not it. Seems like he didn't know that was there".
Gerrick tried to land at the El Paso Airport, but was told by air traffic controllers to go around and aim for the other runway, the one at Biggs Army base, then in El Paso.
"It hit the mountain," Etzold said. "Everything exploded into a huge ball of fire and it scared the mountain with a black stain for years and years afterward".
Etzold discovered that black stain and wreckage on a hike in Boy Scouts. The hike is a tough one, he said, and starts at the top of Stanton Street.
A report on the crash lists several factors, including weather, but Etzold said this wasn't the Gerrick's first brush with danger. He actually piloted a plane that crashed just 10 months prior.
"His plane ran low on fuel, as they were circling over their landing base and after awhile he got nervous and thought they were going to run out of fuel before they were going to land," he said. "So he ordered his crew to bail out then he bailed out. The plane had more fuel than he thought and it went on for 30 or 40 more miles and crashed near a small village in England".
There's a memorial ceremony at the Foundation Room Saturday, December 14th 10 a.m.
afterward buses will take people to the memorial at the top of Stanton Street.