El Toro air crash re­called

Ea­gle Scout cre­ates a me­mo­rial for ser­vice mem­bers killed in 1965 avi­a­tion dis­as­ter.

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By An­gel Jen­nings an­gel.jen­nings@latimes.com

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.”

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