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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Pacific Air Lines Flight #773



The Crash of Pacific Air Lines Flight #773
(Near San Ramon, Calif.)

May 7, 1964

The year was 1964. It was a time when getting aboard a commercial airliner was much easier than today. You paid your money, walked through a gate (then often across the tarmac) and boarded the plane. No X-rays, no security check points, no guards. The wave of hijackings to Cuba was still to come, only to be followed by terrorists hijackings and even worse beyond that.
It was a time when we all thought nobody was crazy enough to take a gun aboard a airliner and threaten to kill people, let alone actually shoot someone. Well on Pacific Air Lines Flight 773, that's exactly what happened.
According to newspaper accounts of the time, Francisco Gonzales would constantly threaten people, especially members of his family. He said that they would die alongside him, by his hand.
But what brought about his problems? Gonzales, 27, had been a member of the Philippine yachting team at the 1960 Olympics. However, by 1964 he was having trouble with his wife and also had accumulated a fair amount of debt. Then one day he apparently decided he had finally had enough. But rather than kill those around him as he had threaten, for some unknown reason, he chose to try to help his wife instead.
According to the accident report, FBI investigators uncovered that Gonzales had advised both friends and relatives that he would die either Wednesday, the 6th of May, or Thursday, the 7th of May. He referred to his impending death on a daily basis throughout the week preceding the accident.
Then, on the evening of the May 6th, Gonzales purchased a Smith and Wesson .357 magnum in a gun shop.
After arriving at the San Francisco Airport, Gonzales took out two insurance policies totaling a $105,000. Then, shortly before boarding the flight to Reno, he displayed his gun to numerous friends at the airport and told one person he intended to shoot himself. He then boarded the flight to Reno, with a ticket to return the next day aboard Pacific Air Lines Flight 773. Newspaper accounts of the time give conflicting total amounts, but Gonzales may have had as much as $160,000 in life insurance at the time of the crash. That was a small fortune at the time especially considering it was an era when an average home in the San Francisco Bay Area could be bought for less than $25,000.
Once in Reno, Gonzales spent the night visiting various gambling establishments. At one place a casino employee asked how he was doing, to which Gonzales replied, "It would not make any difference after tomorrow." Several people recalled seeing Gonzales carrying a small package while in Reno. A janitor at a gambling club where Gonzales was known to have spent a part of the evening discovered a cardboard carton for a Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum revolver and a gun cleaning kit in the wastepaper container. Both of these items were identified later by the seller as part of Gonzales' purchase on the preceding evening.
Then is was time for the return trip. Gonzales went to the airport, and boarded the plane which was headed first for a stop in Stockton, when on to San Francisco. According to witnesses who got off the plane in Stockton, Gonzales was seated right behind the cockpit door.
But Gonzales didn't act immediately. Why didn't he act sooner while the airliner was over the Sierras? Why did he wait until the airliner was almost to San Francisco? We'll probably never know. But about the time the Fairchild F-27A (N2770R) with 43 other souls aboard, started to descend for its landing, Gonzales pulled out his gun and kicked his way into the cockpit. Once in there, he raised the gun and put a bullet into the back of the pilot's head. Ernest Clark, 52, was dead. At 6:48 the aircraft radioed its last message. First officer Raymond Andress was heard saying, "Skipper's shot. We've been shot. Trying to help." There were more shots as Gonzales turned to the co-pilot and shot him.

The twin-engine plane went into a steep, uncontrolled, high speed descent to crash into a hill and explode near San Ramon early in the morning of May 7, 1964. All 44, 41 passengers and 3 crew members, were dead on impact.
There was a large crater with debris spread over a very

2 comments:

the zoom said...

Did Clinton fire her first shot?

This is from the NY Times on Al Gore. Looks like he is preparing to run for president and the Clinton camp is worried.

From a Rapt Audience, a Call to Cool the Hype

Anonymous said...

Ray Elvin Andress is the direct descendant of the American Revolution.

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