Aircraft Wrecks in the Mountains and Deserts of the American West
If you’re traveling along Highway 395 in Mono County, California I recommend that you stop in the small community of Walker and pay your respects to the crew of the fire- fighting tanker N130HP. Their marker, their monument was built by grateful citizens and the USFS, it is but a few feet from the highway on the east side of the road near the north end of town.
As a brush and timber fire raged near Walker on 6/17/02 a Lockheed C-130A N130HP owned and operated by Hawkins and Powers was making its sixth retardant drop of the day. The time was about 2:45PM as the three man crew started their fateful drop over a ridgeline west of town when the wing center section or wing box failed resulting in a devastating crash.
George Petterson of the NTSB wondered if the loss of Lockheed C-130A N135FF on 8/13/94 over the San Gabriel Mountains might be related. The crash of N135FF did not occur while on a fire-fighting mission, nonetheless the result was fatal for its three man crew also. Mr. Petterson visited the N135FF crash site by helicopter and recovered evidence that wing box failure was indeed the cause of this accident too. All C-130A aircraft were grounded pending a full investigation in which wing box corrosion and structural fatigue (difficult to detect on certain designs) was finally established as the primary cause for the loss of both N130HP and C-135FF.
We are grateful to the men and women who bring relief to us from fire while risking their own safety as they fly through obscuring smoke and struggle against the winds of Hell itself.
Tanker 130 crew: Steve Wass, Craig Labare, Mike Davis.