Transcribed from The Deseret News, Salt Lake City, UT, June 17, 1971, p. 1:

10 More Feet–50 Lives

Combined UPI and AP

 

DUARTE, CALIF. — The Marine jet which collided with an Air West DC9 June 6 apparently tried to bank away and a matter of only 10 feet could have prevented the loss of 50 lives, a federal investigator said Wednesday.

George R. Baker, chief of the investigating team from the National Transportation Safety Board, also said the commercial jetliner was struck in two places.

The right wing tip of the Marine Phantom F4 impacted near the front of the passenger section of the DC9 and the vertical stabilizer of the fighter sliced through the airliner cockpit at about floor level, he said.

Baker declined to say, however, which plane hit the other.

The Air West jetliner was bound for Salt Lake City from Los Angeles. Thirteen Utahns and seven Idahoans died in the collision.

Lt. Christopher Schiess, radar man of the Marine jet and the only survivor, told investigators June 10 that his craft had executed a 360-degree barrel roll one minute before the crash.

Between 10 and 20 percent of the airliner has been found and brought out ofrom the crash scene. What is needed now, Baker said, are the nose gear and underside of the fuselage so exact angles of impact can be determined.

Finding so many pieces of wreckage in such rough terrain isn’t the only thing hindering the investigation, Baker said. In addition, “We only know within a couple of miles” where the collision took place.

Searchers are also still looking for parts of 9 or 10 bodies — they aren’t sure of the exact number — and the airliner’s entire load of luggage.

Meanwhile, the first lawsuit arising from the crash was filed on behalf of the family of one of the 50 victims. The family of James R. Reeves asked $1 million from Air West and their attorney indicated a claim also would be filed against El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, home base of the Phantom involved in the collision.

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