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Aircraft Crash Sites ?


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As a former leader of a wilderness search and rescue team, I have first hand knowledge of some aircraft crash sites. Most are in rough terain, but a few may be reached without too much effort.

One in particular has been there since 1954 and there is debris and some personal effects still present at the crash site.

I feel that this would pose a good challenge to the geocaching community as well as having a high intrest level.

However I am concerned with legal and ethical issues.

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Here are the parameters. The site is:

Within one mile of an existing geocache.

Located in National forrest.

The site is in heavy timber.

The site cannot be seen from any other location because of the timber.

All remains were recovered by local athorities in 1954 or 1955.

Aircraft parts are scattered over a large area.

There are still some personal effects at the scene. Example: portable typewriter.

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There is a campground within 3 miles .

There is parking within 1.5 miles.

It is on a mountain where only tree overstory would obstruct GPS signal.

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I would like to hear any thoughts that members might have on this.

Example;

Do you think the children or grand children of the crash victim should be consulted, ect., ect..

Do you think this is something not palatable in general ?

Thanks in advance for your input.

mountainborn

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I think that enough time has passed that contacting family members would not be required. It would be a good way to pay tribute to those that perished. All that being said, I would think that some would take more than pictures and I don't think it's appropriate to point people towards something where they could take a 'memento' home.

 

My $ 0.02.

 

Mike

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I've seen a few other caches at aircraft crash sites (well, OK, I haven't been there myself, but I know of them). In the part of California I live in, the ones I've come across have been military craft (I think the majority of them were being test-piloted).

 

Are there any legal issues about visiting a 50-year-old crash site? I think by now, anything needed for "legal" reasons would have long since been recovered. Assuming it's on public land and access to the site isn't restricted in any manner, I say it's fair game.

 

Are there any ethical issues? I don't think so much for the families involved. Consider how many people probably already come across the site by chance, not to mention crash-site "enthusiasts" who go out looking for that sort of thing...odds are there are already people combing through the remains periodically. I'd consider it similar to a cemetery cache, warranting a little more respectful placement (that is, don't name it "Crash and Burn!" and fill it with little coffins). I'd also suggest hiding it in a way as to not disturb the site while searching for the container.

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...Do you think the children or grand children of the crash victim should be consulted, ect., ect..

Do you think this is something not palatable in general ?...

Obviously, my feelings are based on your premise that the plane crashed 60 years ago. Based on this, I see no problem with placing a cache on-site. I see no reason to ask for permission from any relatives of the long dead passengers or crew. In fact, I don't see any problem with debris from the crash being removed. It is junk and should have been packed out half a century ago.

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I personally know of 2 such sites that are Geocaches - 1 in Colorado and 1 in Arizona. I attempted the Colorado one but weather turned us back. I personally have no problem with such sites. The only thing I would note is to plead with visitors to respect the fact that people died here and to not take anything. Tell the story on the web page and look forward to comments.

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I'm confused as to why so many people insist that items should not be removed.

 

When I had my wreck last year, they took pics, made a report, and swept up all the bits of the vehicles involved. Why would aircraft crashes be any different? You will note that there is not a huge pile of wreckage in NYC, DC, Oklahoma City, Dallas, or Santa Barbara.

 

edit: questions should end with question marks.

Edited by sbell111
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I'm confused as to why so many people insist that items should not be removed.

 

When I had my wreck last year, they took pics, made a report, and swept up all the bits of the vehicles involved. Why would aircraft crashes be any different? You will note that there is not a huge pile of wreckage in NYC, DC, Oklahoma City, Dallas, or Santa Barbara.

 

edit: questions should end with question marks.

Not sure if this applies to a National Forest but many Federal Land agencies consider anything more than 50 years old as having Historical value and significance and they won't remove it. (For example: I recently visited Jewel Cave National monument and graffiti in the cave from 1940's visitors is a protected part of the cave).

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That is just sad.

 

BTW, a national forest is not the same as a national park. I got flamed for that mistake, way back when.

Thanks for letting me know. I wasn't quite sure.

 

In that case I would say go for it. I know there is some well known cache (that I can't think of it right now) that is at a airplane crash site.

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I can give both sides to this: Family of deceased and crash site visitor

I don't have any problems with visiting a crash site nor with others visiting. I am an aircraft enthusiast and have been looking at some of the crash site caches to do, like "Warthog down" I would also encourage you to make sure people are respectful on sites where pilots died and not take anything. My father died in a plane crash and I see it as a way to make sure the pilot isn't forgotten. I know he died doing what he loved and that is probably true of all the pilots of all the crash sites.

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Warthog Down is an excellent 4.5-star hike to a crash site. It is a virtual cache, but under todays guidelines could easily be a physical cache.

 

The pilot in this case ejected safely. I'm not sure how I feel about caches at crash sites where someone died. That somehow seems wrong to me. However I love caches in cemeteries, but I can't explain the difference.

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I'm not sure how I feel about caches at crash sites where someone died. That somehow seems wrong to me. However I love caches in cemeteries, but I can't explain the difference.

I grappled with that same personal question before I posted my response above. I think it has to do with the fact that most people are dead before they get to the cemetery... :blink:

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I'm confused as to why so many people insist that items should not be removed.

 

When I had my wreck last year, they took pics, made a report, and swept up all the bits of the vehicles involved.  Why would aircraft crashes be any different?  You will note that there is not a huge pile of wreckage in NYC, DC, Oklahoma City, Dallas, or Santa Barbara. . . .

I'm not sure about this because I haven't done a search, but I read William Least Heat Moon's excellent (but long) book Prairy Erth. In it he has a chapter about a tragic plane crash many, many years ago in Kansas. The crash site was easily accessible and people were taking things from the site. It was really rather gruesome.

 

Because of that situation, a Federal Law was passed prohibiting the taking of items from plane crash sites.

 

:blink: (I hope my memory of this is correct. I don't have time this morning to do a search about the relevant law.)

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That is just sad.

 

BTW, a national forest is not the same as a national park.  I got flamed for that mistake, way back when.

I agree - quite sad - I don't agree with the policy but I do know of it....

 

BTW - I know the difference.... :blink:

To clarify somewhat. 50 years is regarded as the cut off point at which you should even pose the question 'is this historic, and is it significant enough to protect'.

 

There are things newer than 50 years old that are historic, and there are many, many things older than 50 years that are not histoic. It's a guideline. :blink:

 

In my opinion wreckage in general isn't historic unless there was somthing notable about it like that's the site Air Force one crash landed during the first ever SAM attack on US Soil. For the most part wreckage is debris. The land agency responsible for the area should be willing to notify you if any one crash site does have any significance.

 

I for one would enjoy the cache and would not hesitate to place one.

 

Edit: Just read idiosyncratic's post referencing a law against removing debris. I'd link to that on my cache page.

Edited by Renegade Knight
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...I'm not sure how I feel about caches at crash sites where someone died. That somehow seems wrong to me. However I love caches in cemeteries, but I can't explain the difference.

People die where they live. In the days of old they lived where we live now as well. It's only the specific knowledge of any one spot that gets to people. For the most part what you don't know doesn't hurt you.

 

Cemetaries are a resting place. Crash sites, murder sites, are something else again because they were a location of active death and carnage. I'm not sure how to word that.

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...Because of that situation, a Federal Law was passed prohibiting the taking of items from plane crash sites...

I did a search and couldn't find a law that was on point. 49 CFR 830.10 requires that crash sites be protected pending NTSB investigation, but that wouldn't apply to an old site.

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Interesting subject. I do think that a cache can be done respectfully at a crash site. October Marauder (a cache in Italy) is a case in point. Also, my spouse and I have removed lots of pieces of debris which is buried shallowly (1-2 inches) in the area. 50 plus years of oak leaves falling to the ground. The local villagers carted out most of the usable material long ago. They made everyday products with what they could find. Many of those items have now been given to my husband as gifts. They include a pot lid, door handle, cheese strainer, knife, and silk handkerchief with handmade lace around the edge. My husband thinks of this site also as his father’s gravesite. (cemtery cache?) There are not a lot of human remains after bombs explode and everything burns. We are very happy when people come to visit the site whether they are geocachers, mushroom hunters, or Italian kids learning a history lesson. Sorry, I don't know how to post a link to October Marauder.

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We are very happy when people come to visit the site whether they are geocachers, mushroom hunters, or Italian kids learning a history lesson.

Yes, that doesn't surprise me.

 

Imagine if it were you. Wouldn't you be kind of pleased if people visited your last stand? I'd love to imagine future generations pausing a moment wherever I meet my end and contemplating...mortality 'n' stuff. I'm not sure I'd even care if they were hushed and respectful.

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The information is readily available to the public.

 

http://www2.acc.af.mil/afrcc/crash.htm

 

gcgrk5

 

This one has a sign up near the main sight stating the historic antiqueties act and what kind of fine your face for taking anything from the wreckage. Not sure if this crash site was designated a historic item but they sure dont want you taking anything. Fines were in the range of $25,000..

Edited by top pin
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I don't believe that geocachers are the kind of people that take debris from plane crashes... Actually, I found my first geocache accidentally at a TWA plane crash in near Albuquerque, NM. It is called TWA Canyon Cache. My point is that people go to most plane crashes anyways, cachers or not, so what is so wrong about putting a cache there?

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One in particular has been there since 1954 and there is debris and some personal effects still present at the crash site.

I feel that this would pose a good challenge to the geocaching community as well as having a high intrest level.

However I am concerned with legal and ethical issues.

According to the "Canadian Aviation Regulations" which are pretty close to the FAA's rules, that an Aircraft Crash Site, remains closed to outsiders until the Accident Investigation Team has completed it's investigation.

 

The Owner of the Aircraft has control of the site, but if they abandon the crashed aircraft, then it is pretty much open.

 

Be respectful of the site....remember it is a place where someone has lost their life.

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It is junk and should have been packed out half a century ago.

 

In some places, it is just too remote to get the wreckage out.

 

A B-17 crash site from 1944 is located in Porcupine Mountain State Park, in Michigan. All the crew bailed out and were rescued. The Army had to bulldoze a trail to site to get the ammo, and the top secret Norden bombsite, but they left the rest. At a reunion in 1994 some of the crew made a guided trek to the site and found one of the machine guns!

I have not been to the site but plan to and would like to place a cache there (the $35 dollar cache placement permit is stopping that...another story!). Being in a state park, it is illegal to "treasure hunt" at the site.You can even be prosecuted for having metal detector in your possession in a state park.

There is currently no trail to the site, I am in the process of petitioning the state of Michigan to place a historical marker at the site and add a trail to it (it would be about a two mile hike). People who have been to the site, say there really isn't much there that is discernable as a plane crash (bits of metal, sheets of aluminum) so I don't think plundering would be a problem.

Anyway....Place the cache, it would be great.

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I've been interested in a B-17 site near 4 star GCE89 west of Lake Tahoe. Another geocacher has worked with the USFS in posting Antiquities Act signs there.

4f0d7a46-6af4-4508-8dd1-546cd9d846a7.jpg

As I understand it, a B-17C Small Tail was headed for maintenance when it went down in a storm, November 1941. The pilot got the crew out, but remained at the controls as the plane broke apart at altitude. Next month, the squadron flew to Hickman Field, Hawaii, arriving Dec 7, 1941.

 

Another 4.5 star I've been to is tragic charter flight 802, east of Bishop, CA.

GC382A

 

Tranquill settings from horrific moments in time. TNLN.

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People who have been to the site, say there really isn't much there that is discernable as a plane crash (bits of metal, sheets of aluminum) so I don't think plundering would be a problem.

I wonder what happened to the 4 big radial engines? You can't carry one of those in a backpack.

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Is this any different than discovering passenger ship wreckage w/in the 3mile limit? Auto? School bus? Whatever? After the remains and personal effects have been removed by the rightful owners the rest is, in my opinion, fair game for exploration and/or plunder. This presumes that there are no laws preventig such actions, of course. It is up to each person to determine the extent of their presumed legal/ethical actions on such sites. Coming upon such sites that have remains and/or personal effects, then a person ought to try and determine if this site is known to the authorities before disturbing the items found there. As in most things, if you are not sure, then leave it alone. Being respectful of such sites is never the wrong thing to do.

Edited by Team cotati697
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People who have been to the site, say there really isn't much there that is discernable as a plane crash (bits of metal, sheets of aluminum) so I don't think plundering would be a problem.

I wonder what happened to the 4 big radial engines? You can't carry one of those in a backpack.

That very question came to mind in the crash site I mentioned in the origonal post.

The engine was missing when the crash site was found by the authorities in 1954 or 1955. Later the story emerged that a local mountaneer tending his still in the storm that caused the crash, herd the impact. He was dumping used barrels of mash into hog troughs in the rain so the neighbors might not be able to smell it. After the storm he went looking and found the crash. He chopped the engine the rest of the way from the firewall and lashed it to a wing that had came off. Then he skidded it out with a team of mules. His children say that it fed them for quite a long time when times were hard. No one would talk about if there were any remains there while this was happening.

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I don't think that there is an easy answer to this one. I've been to a plane crash site in Death Valley that is not easily accesible.....the entire crew bailed out safely long before the plane crashed into the side of a mountain. I didn't feel that I was intruding on a sacred site, and I also didn't remove anything.

 

We have a plane crash site here on the island that has been designated as a Cemetery site. There is another one in a National Park and the park rangers asked that it be archived because they didn't want to encourage people to make their own trails to visit the site.

 

I'd like to think that most people would be respectful if the crash site involved fatalities.

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People who have been to the site, say there really isn't much there that is discernable as a plane crash (bits of metal, sheets of aluminum) so I don't think plundering would be a problem.

I wonder what happened to the 4 big radial engines? You can't carry one of those in a backpack.

That very question came to mind in the crash site I mentioned in the origonal post.

The engine was missing when the crash site was found by the authorities in 1954 or 1955. Later the story emerged that a local mountaneer tending his still in the storm that caused the crash, herd the impact. He was dumping used barrels of mash into hog troughs in the rain so the neighbors might not be able to smell it. After the storm he went looking and found the crash. He chopped the engine the rest of the way from the firewall and lashed it to a wing that had came off. Then he skidded it out with a team of mules. His children say that it fed them for quite a long time when times were hard. No one would talk about if there were any remains there while this was happening.

I heard that the #3 cylinder wall goes especially well with bernaise.

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There's a cache here that is near a car in a tree-- obviously, it's a car wreck site.

 

My own geocache is on a site where a mudslide killed 11 people. There are nearby shrines to the deceased. I make it clear on the cache page that it's an unofficial grave.

 

My 2 cents:

1) Be clear on the cache page that this site needs respect.

2) Don't put the cache anywhere that someone finding it might get hurt or cut by debris, and make that clear in the cache page as well. For instance, the cache is not underneath the car in the tree or near that particular tree-- you can find the cache without risking having a 1950's automobile land on your head.

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I used to work as a Helitack on the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Jackson Hole Wyoming. The forest is littered with old and not so old plane wrecks. We once found one we did not know about while working on a wildfire. After much investigation we found that it was a 30 year old wreck that crashed while working on a fire. There were literally so many wrecks that when we went on searches for missing planes we would find old plane wrecks. Now when planes crash the forest insists that the wrecks be removed. From the Forest perspective, I do not think that they would have any problem with caches at wreck sites as long as they were not in a wilderness area.

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I have visited a few crash sites in the remote parts of Tahoe and once came upon one with a friend on accident and found some parts of a human skull. We contacted the FAA and gave them the coordinates with our GPS thinking it may have never been reported. The FAA was going to have us guide one of their people up to the crash site but at the last minute found records of the crash from 1981. Some of the items I saw laying around the crash site such as a hair pin, pieces of a ski boot and car keys made me feel very sad and made the site feel spiritual and a place where people should not be trampling about and picking up pieces. While I'm sure most geocachers would not do this, I'm sure some irresponsible cachers would grab pieces of wreckage to take home. I would have no problem if I knew that the cache was created in memory of those whom died in the crash and all that was taken was photographs and all that was left was a log, but this is the real world and I know that this would not be the case. I would have to say no to crash sites where people had died and debris from the crash remains.

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I have visited a few crash sites in the remote parts of Tahoe and once came upon one with a friend on accident and found some parts of a human skull. We contacted the FAA and gave them the coordinates with our GPS thinking it may have never been reported. The FAA was going to have us guide one of their people up to the crash site but at the last minute found records of the crash from 1981. Some of the items I saw laying around the crash site such as a hair pin, pieces of a ski boot and car keys made me feel very sad and made the site feel spiritual and a place where people should not be trampling about and picking up pieces. While I'm sure most geocachers would not do this, I'm sure some irresponsible cachers would grab pieces of wreckage to take home. I would have no problem if I knew that the cache was created in memory of those whom died in the crash and all that was taken was photographs and all that was left was a log, but this is the real world and I know that this would not be the case. I would have to say no to crash sites where people had died and debris from the crash remains.

Why were you 'visiting' crash sites?

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Why were you 'visiting' crash sites?
I have come upon most by accident while hiking, there are probabily 40 or crash more sites in the Tahoe area and over the years I'm bound to run into a few like the one I wrote about. I have no problem hiking to these sites because I would never take anything but I would never place a cache at any of these sites because I know there would be geocachers who would disturb the remains. Edited by TahoeJoe
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