Aircraft Wrecks in the Mountains and Deserts of the American West

Newspaper Obituary E. “Butch” Gates, 1948 - 2009


Elgin “Butch” F. Gates, 61, of Idaho Falls, passed away Wednesday, Dec 30th, 2009, at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center.

Butch was born September 10, 1948, in Needles, California, to Elgin T. and Dollie R. Coon Gates. He attended school in Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, and Needles, California. He attended college in San Bernardino, California.

He served in the United States Air Force and later in the United States Army where he was on the military shooting teams.

After his military service, he went back to Needles and went to work for the Santa Fe Railroad. He was a conductor at the time of his retirement. He also served as the Deputy Sheriff, tracking lost people and fugitives in the desert as well as working extensively with the Search and Rescue.

Butch loved his maps, the desert, and looking for things lost including airplane crashes. He was an active member of the aircraft wreck chasing community, contributing research and helping others with their publications and other projects. He enjoyed the time he spent in the desert and his family remembers him spending many happy hours roving all over the desert showing them wonderful places that very few people knew about.

Butch was a devout Jehovah’s Witness. Besides being a dedicated “pioneer” he helped out with numerous church builds in the western states. He enjoyed the time he spent with his many church friends.

He is survived by his sisters: Sharron (Kenny) Ward of Hawaii, Irene (Tom) Graham of Fountain Valley, California; brothers: Randy (Judy) Gates and Robert (Diane) Gates both of Idaho Falls, ID.

He was preceded in death by his parents

At Butch’s request he was cremated. Memorial services will be at 6:00 PM Saturday, January 9th, 2010, at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, 4805 Sweet Water Way, Ammon, Idaho. Inurnment will be a private family ceremony.

Online condolences or a sympathy card, may be sent to the family at

I only met Butch once when he visited Orange County many years ago, but we talked frequently by telephone. Butch loved the history and geography of the Mojave Desert, and shared much of his research with other students of this forbidding vastness. Thanks to Butch I learned where many of the old plane wrecks were in the eastern desert, and the compelling stories associated with them. Butch encouraged me to look for sites that had eluded him, and to report any discoveries that I made. He sent me countless newspaper articles and copies of maps old and new. I will miss his stories, his kind voice, and willingness always to help unlock the secrets of the great desert that he loved.

G. Pat Macha, January 2010



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