30-Year Old Jet Crash Documents Released

Accident in 1973 worst lost of life in Alameda history

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Courtesy Alameda Fire Department

A Navy jet crashed into Alameda apartment buildings almost 40 years ago.

A freelance journalist with the Miami Herald, Theo Karantsalis, will soon shed new light on the cause of an accident that brought horror to Alameda on Feb. 7, 1973. Karantsalis recently obtained the 98-page report about the crash.

Although he lives in Florida today, Karantsalis is no stranger to the Island City. He graduated from Encinal High School in 1979. He was known as Ted Karas when he lived here. He was 12 years old at the time of the crash and has not forgotten it.

When the Navy jet struck the Tahoe Apartments on Central Avenue it was traveling at about Mach 1, equal to the speed of sound, some 761 miles per hour, according to a U.S. government report Karantsalis obtained almost 40 years after the crash.

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Dennis Evanosky

The apartment building destroyed in the crash was replaced with The Sycamore apartment complex.

The Navy has said the record was missing and presumably lost in response to previous Freedom of Information Act requests over the years.

Although there was speculation soon after the accident that the pilot may have tried to light a cigarette while flying, thus touching off a fire that caused the crash, that isn't borne out by the newly released report, Karantsalis writes.

On the evening of Feb. 7, 1973, Alameda firefighters were called to the Tahoe Apartment Building in the 1800 block of Central Avenue.

They arrived to a devastating scene. At 8:13 p.m. a U.S. Navy A- 7E Corsair II jet interceptor had crashed into the apartments there. The impact of the crash and the fire it caused destroyed the Tahoe Apartment Building along with three other nearby apartment houses.

The jet, which was flying on a routine training mission, had no connection to the Naval Air Station in Alameda. It was assigned to Attack Squadron VA-195, from the Lemoore Naval Air Station located southwest of Fresno.

Firefighters arrived to find that some survivors had leaped from windows and slid down bed-sheets to escape the inferno. Firefighters kept the flames from spreading despite the dropping water pressure in the fire hydrants. The fire killed 11 people, including the pilot, Lieutenant Robert Lee Ward. The accident caused the greatest one-day loss of life in the history of the city of Alameda.

 

Comments   

 
0 #6 Jacqueline 2012-12-27 23:02
I was 12 yrs. old as well, living on Encinal. When my sister and I heard the jet screaming in, then dead silence, followed by a huge explosion that shook our apartment violently...we hit the door running. We ran down to Central to see people crying and gawking, debris everywhere. A house next to the apartment building was very near to catching fire so many adults and me and my sister went in and started to move their belongings to the front yard. Not long after the house did catch and we had to leave. To this day when I hear a low flying plane or chopper I get a bit panicked and remember that awful night.
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+1 #5 Eric Van 2012-08-29 15:54
http://springyleaks.com/ july archives
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0 #4 Eric Van 2012-08-29 15:53
Quoting Roger Gillis:
Sounds like the crash left an indelible mark on this man when he was a kid. Have any documents been posted yet? Where?

posted on http://springyleaks.com/ july archives
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+1 #3 Eric Van 2012-08-29 15:52
July Archives http://springyleaks.com/ 96 page report
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+1 #2 Eric Van 2012-08-29 15:49
[The report can be found at http://springyleaks.com, click on the archives then select July, you will find the 96 page report near the bottom of the page
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+1 #1 Roger Gillis 2012-07-20 11:26
Sounds like the crash left an indelible mark on this man when he was a kid. Have any documents been posted yet? Where?
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