Five Tragic Moments in San Diego History

5 tragic moments san diego history

“WendtPSA” by hans wendt – http://photos.signonsandiego.com/080920PSA/PSACrash25Sep1978 link no longer works. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of PSA Flight 182 via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:WendtPSA.jpg#m
“WendtPSA” by hans wendt – http://photos.signonsandiego.com/080920PSA/PSACrash25Sep1978 link no longer works. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of PSA Flight 182 via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:WendtPSA.jpg#m

This list is not meant to be all encompassing or to invalidate other events that made local or National headlines. Loss of life and material destruction are not trivial events. The purpose of this article is to remember the past as to gain knowledge for the future posterity.

Boiler Explosion on board the USS Bennington, 21 July 1905:

The USS Bennington (Gunboat # 4) pulled into the San Diego Harbor on July 19, 1905 and moored just north of (present day) Seaport Village. The crew, which was already spent from a difficult 17 day voyage from the Hawaiian islands, were ordered to go back to sea with very little rest. Upon preparing to leave for the new mission to help tow the monitor Wyoming, a catastrophic event took place. As steam was being raised an improperly closed steam line valve, and faulty safety valve, caused one of the boilers to exceed tolerance. The boiler exploded much like a bomb, and released scalding steam throughout the ship. The USS Bennington did not sink due to the efforts of the tug boat Santa Fe, however she was unsalvageable. In the End more than 60 of the crew died either outright or due to injuries.

The big flood of 1916, and the Rain Maker:

Local river runoff had been below normal for a period of four years prior to the flood of 1916. Many locals feared a drought was soon to follow. A recommendation from a real estate agent named F. A. Binney and the Wide Awake Improvement Club, requested that Charles M. Hatfield be employed to produce rain. Hatfield had already established the belief by residents that he could produce rain in Los Angeles north through the Central Valleys of California and in the wheat fields of Oregon, Montana and Alberta, Canada. Ultimately, Hatfield began the lackluster process of producing rain, using unknown chemicals and other means. He concluded he could pull moisture from the air itself and harness it. Half a century later weather studies of January, 1916 (compiled through the Army), indicated that at that time the low pressure area over Southern California sucked in four separate air masses. As these masses were pulled together, air of different temperatures was brought together along their edges, or fronts, creating a “pinwheel” figure on weather maps, a condition which causes heavy rains. Hatfield’s experiments were not likely the reason for the great rain of 1916. Massive flooding and dam failures caused millions of dollars worth of damage. San Diego received nearly three times the average rainfall vs the same time in previous years. A financial contract between Hatfield and the City, to produce rain was never paid. The city offered to pay Hatfield the money he was due only if he has willing to pay for the 3.5 million dollars in wrongful law suites filled against the city for hiring him. The total loss of life was set around 16 though, there could have been many more unreported deaths due to the flood.

Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) Flight 182 Crash of 1978:

PSA Flight 182 was returning from Los Angeles on route to San Diego’s Lindbergh Field. While in flight above San Diego the Boeing 727-214 struck a Cessna 172. The accident was a result from the pilot and ATC error. Between 09:01:45 and 09:02:04 about 20 seconds from time of collision PSA flight 182 crashed into the San Diego Community of North Park. The plane impacted just west of the I-805 freeway, approximately nine meters (30 feet) north of the intersection of Dwight and Nile streets, with the bulk of the debris field spreading in a northeast to southwesterly direction towards Boundary Street. One of the plane’s wings lodged in a house. The coordinates of the Boeing crash site are 32°44′37″N 117°07′14″WCoordinates: 32°44′37″N 117°07′14″W. In total, 144 people perished in the disaster, including Flight 182′s seven crew members, 30 additional PSA employees, two Cessna occupants, and seven residents (five women, two male children) on the ground.

The San Diego Cleveland Elementary School shooting:

A 16-year-old girl, Brenda Spencer (born April 3, 1962), who lived in a home across the street from Cleveland Elementary School (San Carlos), went on a shooting spree. On the morning of Monday, January 29, 1979, Spencer began shooting from her home at children who were waiting outside Cleveland Elementary School for principal Burton Wragg to open the gates. She injured eight children. Wragg was killed while trying to help the children. Custodian Mike Suchar was killed while trying to pull Wragg to safety. A police officer responding to a call for assistance during the incident was wounded in the neck as he arrived. A reporter got through to Spencer after the shooting while she was still held up in the house. He said Spencer told him she carried out the shooting because she ‘didn’t like Mondays’. Spencer plead guilty to two counts of murder and assault with a deadly weapon, and was given an indefinite sentence. She is currently in prison.

San Ysidro McDonald’s massacre:

The San Ysidro McDonald’s massacre was a mass shooting that occurred in and around the area of a McDonald’s restaurant in the San Diego neighborhood of San Ysidro on July 18, 1984. The perpetrator, 41-year-old James Huberty, shot and killed 21 people, including five children, and injured 19 others, before being fatally shot by a SWAT team sniper. The sordid and painful details-testimony’s from the massacre survivors, are difficult if not unimaginable by any sane person’s standards. Huberty fired 257 rounds of ammunition, killing 20 people and wounding 20 others, one of whom died the following day. Seventeen of the victims were killed in the restaurant, with four additional victims killed in the immediate vicinity of the restaurant. Huberty killed indiscriminately of age or race.

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