El Toro air crash recalled
Eagle Scout creates a memorial for service members killed in 1965 aviation disaster.
Fifty years ago, 84 U.S. servicemen boarded an Air Force jet near Irvine bound for war-torn Vietnam, prepared to defend their country.
But the men never received their marching orders.
Shortly after the C-135 aircraft took off from Marine Corps Air Station El Toro on June 25, 1965, it slammed into nearby Loma Ridge.
The downed jet erupted in flames, and all 72 Marines aboard died, along with the 12-man Air Force crew.
The cause of the accident was never determined.
Five decades later, it remains the deadliest air disaster in Orange County history.
But the servicemen’s sacrifice was not remembered on any monument.
Their names were not etched on the Vietnam Memorial walls in Washington because they died in the U.S. before receiving their official orders, the organizers of a new tribute say.
So 15-year-old Jordan Fourcher created an interactive memorial kiosk at Orange County Great Park on the site of the former El Toro Marine base, to honor the men who lost their lives in that fatal flight.
The kiosk will feature a metal base, engraved with the names of the men, and a touch-screen interactive kiosk with biographical information, he said.
Fourcher spent a year working on a lasting monument as part of his Eagle Scout project.
“I was going to do a metal plaque in a park,” said the Corona Del Mar resident. “But it turned into something so much more. Everything aligned and worked out perfectly.”
On Saturday, more than 50 family members of the deceased gathered at the Great Park for the unveiling of the memorial inside the Great Park hangar.
Irvine Mayor Steven Choi and Reps. Dana Rohrabacher and Mimi Walters were expected to attend the event, which was scheduled to feature a Marine Corps color guard and a missing man flyover with World War II-era aircraft, Pat Macha, one of the event’s organizers, said.
“Jordan has done a wonderful job on this,” Macha said. “It is just amazing.”