Placing the Stone.
A Mystery Solved.
By: Don R. Jordan
permission from Ron Selin
Quite often I receive email or letters from friends or family members of those killed in, or in some other way involved, in a long ago aircraft accident. Sometimes the information they provide may make it necessary to write the original story which appears in our book “Aircraft Wrecks In The Mountains And Deserts Of California.” G. Pat Macha and Don R. Jordan co-authored this book, which was released in 2002. I have decided to add some of these stories as Updates rather than rewrite and republish the entire book.
Independence Lake C-47D
AAF # 43-49030
Missing October 26, 1950
Found May 31, 1951
by Don R. Jordan
At the time of this accident M/Sgt. Rafferty had accumulated more than 9,350 hours of flying time, with 996 hours in C-47 type aircraft, and more than 522 hours of instrument flying time. He was without doubt one of the most experienced pilots in the service at that time.
So how could a pilot of M/Sgt. Rafferty's experience allow his aircraft to hit a solid rock wall? We'll never know for sure, but the investigating board felt that M/Sgt. Rafferty simply misjudged the winds aloft that day, and thinking he was clear of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, started down from altitude in cloudy instrument conditions. Unfortunately he was not clear, and at 8,200 above sea level, the clouds turned to solid rock!The accident took the lives of M/Sgt. Rafferty, Captain Richard N. Luse, copilot, T/ Sgt. William A. Larsen, Engineer, and Pfc. Dan L. Young who was simply catching a military ride home. Pfc. Young had just been discharged from the Army, and still carried his discharge papers in his pocket. He was no doubt thinking of home and family in that last instant of life.
And indeed we were correct on both counts. In an email, Mr. Ron Selin, Richard Luse’s son-in-law wrote the following.The co-pilot on this plane, Richard Luse, was my father-in-law. My family, his wife, and three of his daughters made a trip up that mountain to see the crash site on July 10 1985. We took many photos and a movie. The Reno newspaper sent a team up with us. His wife and daughters are still living. He also has a bother that went with us, he is also still living. My mother-in-law made the first trip up just after his body was found (which was missing for many months until the snow melted) to place a stone at the sight. My wife was 5 years old, her sister was 3 years old and Jean, Richard's wife, was carrying the third sister. She was born on Richard's birthday after the bodies were found, so she was named Richalene. When Jean learned the plane was found, about 5 months after the plane went down, her dad flew to Sacramento to join the Air Force party to go with them to the plane crash site. He identified his son-in-law and made arranged to fly him to Denver for burial. While looking through the debris he found their engraved wedding ring. In September of 1951 Jean wanted to go to the site to see for herself. Her dad and 3 uncles made the trip up the mountain carrying the 150 lbs. stone in back packs. They took turns carrying the stone.
Note: The full story of this
accident is in our book “Aircraft Wrecks in the Mountain and Desert of
California.” (3rd edition). Available at: