Aircraft Wrecks in the Mountains and Deserts of the American West
McDonnell F3H-2N Demon USN
When Dennis Richardson a long time resident of San Diego County contacted me in January 2006 about identifying a military plane wreck that he found while hunting many years ago in a remote area I was immediately interested. Dennis said that there were some small parts and pieces remaining at the site, and that we could reach them in about an hour or so. Dennis also said that the hike wasn’t too bad.
It took more than two hours of hiking and climbing that I'd call strenuous. The three small pieces turned out to be very large, and to my surprise, remarkably intact. The moment I saw the tail and wing configuration I knew we had a McDonnell F3H Demon!
The direction of flight appeared to be east to west, with impact just below the top of a rugged ridgeline. There was very little evidence of major fire or explosion. What was the fate of the pilot we wondered? There were two good signs. No canopy plexiglas to speak off, and no ejection seat. We all hoped he had "punched out" in time.
We spent several hours examining and photographing the wreckage. The site covered some four acres, was marked with yellow paint, and had been partially salvaged. Nonetheless, 80% plus was still there.
We still didn't have an accident date or Bureau Number, nor did we know the fate of the pilot. After promising Dennis this information, we returned to Orange County and my home office archives. Bingo! An article sent to me by Butch Gates provided all the basic data. An F3H-2N bound for NAS Miramar had gone down in heavy fog following successful pilot ejection. The pilot, one Skeeter Carson had to spend the night in the wild, but was rescued the following morning with only minor injuries.
Dennis Richardson has made contact with Mr. Carson, who is happily retired on the East Coast.
On July 21, 2008 Ralph “Skeeter” Carson accompanied by wife, Chris and two other F3H-2N VF-124 “Moonshiner” pilots, Roger Burnell and Larry Swartz, returned to view and visit the remains of Skeeter Carson’s McDonnell F3H-2N that crashed on the night of 10/3/56. All arrangements to visit the crash site were made by Dennis Richardson with the special cooperation of a property owner who lives near the crash site.
Skeeter recalled the dark, foggy night of the accident, when he experienced partial instrument failure as he was making an ILS approach to the then Miramar Naval Air Station. Knowing that he was over mountains Skeeter decided to eject fearing eminent collision with the high terrain. He landed safely, but in the fog had no idea of where he was. As soon as the tower realized Skeeter’s F3H-2N was missing the VF-124 Squadron CO sent another “Moonshiner” pilot Wally Schira to comfort Mrs. Carson through the long night.
At dawn on the fourth of October the clouds started to clear and a rescue helicopter was dispatched from Miramar to Skeeter’s last known position. Within twenty minutes the SAR chopper had spotted Skeeter and his inflated life raft (used during the night for shelter) perched only a few yards from a cliff face. Besides a few bumps and bruises Skeeter was recovered without incident, but he was unable to see where his F3H-2N had crashed until that is, 7/21/08.
For more information about F3H Demons, see Demon Drivers.