GOVERNOR SNELL’S PLANE CRASH
By Jack Smith
I am John B. (Jack) Smith, a US Forest Service Retiree,
having retired in
The first episode was the Japanese Balloon bombing that
Governor Earl Snell, Secretary of State Robert S. Farrell
Jr., President of the Senate Marshall E. Cornett, and their pilot Cliff Hogue
left Klamath Falls late in the evening of Tuesday, October 27th. They were headed for
Although the weather was bad, a small search plane flown by
Bob Adams got a fleeting glimpse of the crashed airplane Wednesday afternoon.
The Forest Service, however, was not informed that the Governor’s plane was
missing until on
Wednesday. When I got word that the
crashed plane had been sighted on the Drew’s Valley Ranger district, southwest
We had a cook, so food and hot coffee was readily available. We provided for sanitation and could handle the 50 or 60 men who showed up to help with the search. Mostly they were Forest Services Employees and local citizens. However, there were a couple of state police officers, many members of the press, and others.
Although some searching was done late Wednesday, searchers were hampered by cold rain, pitch darkness, and the rugged terrain. These searches were somewhat disorganized and ineffective.
The plane crash was at about the 6000 ft level, and was heavily timbered with mature Ponderosa Pine timber. It is moderately rough country with peaks, rock escarpments, and deep ravines.
At daylight Thursday morning, we were well organized and ready to go. There were about 50 or 60 searchers in the group. I briefed the group on what we would do. We lined up about 50 feet apart in a generally north-south direction. We followed a compass course westerly and told people to stay close enough together to have contact with the person on each side of them. The two state police officers were at the each end of the search line. We did not want people to get lost and wander around in the wet, cold weather. As a signal, one of the state police officers was to fire his pistol three times when the plane was found.
After travelling ½ to ¾ mile cross-country, we walked into the crashed airplane. The plane had hit several tall Ponderosa pine trees, crashed in a small opening, and slid under the pine trees. One of the passengers was thrown out a door that came open, the other three were in the fuselage which was badly damaged. There were no survivors, they were killed on impact. The plane had not burned upon crashing. The operation went well and the search successful. There was excellent cooperation among lots of people. Many news people were there. But then the real work started as we had to carry the bodies back to base camp where they could be loaded on 4-wheel drive vehicles and moved to Lakeview. We had carried litters and sheets with us, so we got started moving the bodies immediately.
As is often the case, the carrying was done by a limited number of people. It was a real struggle moving the bodies across the rugged terrain to camp, but we got the job done. We cleaned up the area and closed up the campsite. We also said thanks to many people, both Forest Service employees and others who helped.
Governor Snell, Marshall Cornett, and Bob Farrell were very
popular politicians. Earl Snell has been
eulogized as one of