Plane Chartered by the U.S. Immigration Services Crashes
On January 28, 1948, a twin-engine DC-3C chartered by the U.S. Immigration Service from Airline Transport Carriers of Burbank, California crashed in western Fresno County's Los Gatos Canyon, killing all 32 people on board, including 28 Mexican farm workers being deported by the U.S. Immigration Service. Eyewitnesses saw at least nine people leap to their deaths. Twelve of the farm workers were never identified. The newspaper reported later that hundreds from "Fresno's Mexican colony" - the local Latino community - wept during Catholic services at a mass burial.
The plane crashed in Los Gatos Creek Canyon west from the town of Coalinga. The site is on private land and trespassing is prohibited. The site is a small empty field that can be seen from the county road. The wreckage site was cleaned up soon after the crash and nothing is left. Treasure hunters using metal detectors removed remaining debris during the 1950s/1960s.
Peaceful Los Gatos Canyon was the scene of on of the worst disasters in commercial aviation history yesterday morning.
Thirty-two persons dropped to sudden death in the rock bed of Los Gatos creek about 21 miles northwest of Coalinga and a mile east of the Fresno County Road Camp, when the left wing of an Air Transport Carries plane in which they were flying ripped away and sent the broken wreckage of the DC-3C transport hurtling to the ground.
Broken and charred bodies and an indiscernible heap of debris were all that was left of a government chartered flight from Oakland which world have taken 28 Mexican Nationals back to their homeland.
A chartered Immigration Service plane crashed and burned in western Fresno County this morning, killing twenty-eight Mexican deportees, the crew of three and an Immigration guard. Irving F. Wixon, director of the Federal Immigration Service at San Francisco, said that the Mexicans were being flown to the deportation center at El Centro, Calif., for return to their country. The group included Mexican nationals who entered the United States Illegally, and others who stayed beyond duration of work contracts in California, he added. All were agricultural workers.
Death ended the aerial deportation of 28 Mexican nationals yesterday near Coaling in Fresno county.
With three crew members of the chartered non-certificated plane and a veteran Immigration service guard, they died when the plan caught fire in mid-air broke up, and crashed.
None of the 32 person aboard survived. The death toll was one of the greatest in the history of California aviation disasters.
Members of the crew were:
Captain Frank Atkinson 30, of Long Beach.
First Officer Marion Ewing, 32, of Balboa.
Stewardess Bobbie Atkinson, wife of the pilot.
Immigration Service Guard Frank Chaffin, 63 of 1350 Albina Avenue, Berkley.