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Plane Down Near Here, Belief


Fort Collins Express Courier, October 19, 1943

Sheriff Ray M. Barger announced at 2:30 p.m. today that Lowry field authorities informed him that a B-17 bomber is missing. It may have carried a full crew, the sheriff was informed.

The sheriff issued a warning to motorists not to drive to the scene of the crash, in order to avoid creating traffic congestion which would hamper Army vehicles in their work. With stormy weather and bad road conditions expected, he said, there is further reason for avoiding traffic congestion.

Information relayed early this afternoon to the Express-Courier by the Associated Press indicated that a plane vaguely reported to have crashed late yesterday somewhere in or near the northeastern tip of Rocky Mountain National forest, may have been en route from Rapid City, S.D., to Denver.

Mrs. Albert Chandler, who lives on the Rockwell ranch about 20 miles due west of Fort Collins, told the sheriff's office here at 10:45 p.m. last night that a plane, apparently flying low, passed over the ranch. Shortly afterward, she said, she heard a violent explosion.

Lowry field authorities, from whom Sheriff Ray M. Barger awaited word to indicate whether any planes were missing from the field, told the Associated Press "that the only information it has on a plane is that it is supposed to be from Rapid City, S.D., and was forced down." Further check was being made with Rapid City, the AP reported.

No Fire Seen
Mr. and Mrs. Chandler drove their automobile along roads near the ranch after hearing the explosion last night, the sheriff was told. They were unable, however, to sight any fire which might have resulted from a plane crash.

Early today, the sheriff said, other ranchers living in the vicinity of Signal mountain, just outside the northeastern edge of the national park, reported sighting a smudge that might have indicated either a plane crash or a hunter's abandoned campfire.

To Comb Area
Vernon Spencer of the J. Derby ranch and others told the sheriff they would investigate the rugged and inaccessible area by foot and horseback.

At Christman field here, Otis Massey, president of the Massey and Ransom Flying service, stood by with the sheriff awaiting more definite word from Lowry field. Mr. Massey said the opportunity for scouting the national park area with local planes was extremely limited, since snow already was falling there and storm signals had been posted here.

Officers Seek Fliers' Bodies

Eight are Believed Dead in Bomber Crash Near Signal Mountain

Fort Collins Express Courier, October 20, 1943

Headed by Sheriff Ray M. Barger, a score of men, including Army officers and soldiers from Lowry field, left here at 5 a.m. today to reach the rugged 11,000 foot northeastern corner of Rocky Mountain National park where an Army Flying Fortress bomber crashed and burned Monday night, carrying at least five and perhaps eight fliers to their deaths.

The sheriff's party planned to enter the nearly inaccessible area four miles west of Signal mountain in the region of the Mummy range, by horseback from the John Derby ranch, just north of the crash scene along Pennock creek.

Following the sheriff at noon today were two other officers from Lowry field, who arrived to survey the crash and determine plans for salvaging the wreckage.

Five Bodies Found
Five bodies were discovered late yesterday by Vernon Spencer and Chris Hyatt, both ranchers, who entered the area following early reports that a plane had crashed and while Lowry field scouting planes flew overhead to sight the wreckage. Authorities withheld names of the fliers pending official notice to their families.

Lowry field officials announced today that eight men were on the plane, a B-17 bomber, enroute to Denver from the Rapid City, S.D. Army air base.

Started Fire
Besides the Army, Air force officers and soldiers, the sheriff's party today included Ranger Norman Griswold of the Roosevelt National forest office here and Deputy County Coroner L.E. Butler of Loveland.

Barger said the plane's crash set a small forest fire in the timbered region. The fire was reported controlled, however, by a Forest service crew led by Chief Ranger J. Barton Herschler from the Buckhorn ranger station, several miles northeast of the crash.

Heard Explosion
Probably the only person to hear the bomber as it flew toward the fatal mountain slope was Mrs. Albert Chandler, living at the Rockwell ranch about 7 miles north of Signal mountain. She reported at 10:15 p.m. Monday that a plane flying extremely low passed over the ranch. Shortly afterward she heard a violent explosion, but neither she nor her husband were able to locate the fire from the explosion.

Early yesterday ranchers farther south spotted a smudge and Spencer and Hyatt began their trek to the scene.

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