50 years ago — More than 30 Navy and Air Force men from El Centro Naval Air Facility are giving up their free time this coming weekend to help insure success of the coming Babe Ruth League World Series playoff in Brawley.

They’ll spend both Saturday and Sunday in Brawley painting the new $50,000 stadium complex that had been erected at Lions Field in preparation for the series event Aug. 21-29.

The new stadium was erected primarily by volunteer labor. Lt. Pat Nesbitt, public information officer for the 6511th Air Force Test Group (Parachute) at the base, said this morning the count showed eight volunteers each from the Naval Air Facility and the 6511th group and 15 from the Naval Aerospace Recovery Facility.

In addition, the various units are bringing along a large amount of equipment, including seven paint spray guns and five compressor units, Lt. Nesbitt said.

Present plans for the weekend “painting party” call for application of the basic red undercoat to the stadium complex Saturday, followed Sunday with the final coat of red, white and blue combination colors. The volunteers servicemen will be guests at a noon barbecue both days with the community and Babe Ruth League World Series Committee serving as hosts.


40 years ago — Authorities are investigating a phony radio message that prompted searchers on both sides of the U.S. – Mexico border to spend four days looking for two Nevada men aboard a private plane that apparently never was lost.

Tijuana and San Diego authorities began combing a 50-mile stretch of Baja California on Sunday for a single-engine Cessna 182 that was overdue at Brown Field on the U.S. side of the border.

San Diego air traffic controllers had received a message late Sunday afternoon from a pilot identifying himself as Frank Sala Jr. authorities said. The caller said he would be landing his plane at Brown Field within 30 minutes, but the Cessna never showed up.

Sala, passenger George Armstrong and the missing Cessna were found unharmed Wednesday at a Mexicali airport. “Drug smugglers may have used (Sala’s) name and his plane’s call numbers, then flown down below the hills to get out of the radar range,” said San Diego sheriff’s spokesman Doug Clements.

“The Federal Aviation Administration compared a sample tape of Sala’s voice with a tape of the voice on the radio message and they were completely different,” Clements said. “We’re completely satisfied that it’s not the same voice and the he (Sala) was nowhere in the area” when the radio message was relayed, Clements said.


30 years ago — The fatal crash of a Marine Corps CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter in a remote area of Imperial County on Saturday occurred after the craft broke apart in the sky, according to parents of surviving crew members.

After the crash, Rebecca Arriola of Modesto said her son, Staff Sgt. D.G. Arriola, told her, “The copter fell apart in the sky. The rear part of the copter just fell off.”

A spokesman of the Tustin Marine Corps Air Station where the Sea Stallion was based as part of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363, said the Marine Corps would have no comment on how the crash occurred.

Master Sgt. Steve Merrill said an investigation is underway. But Keith Waggy of Spokane, Wash., said his son Cpl. R.M. Waggy, told him the rear end of the helicopter came apart in flight and that the man who was killed in the crash had been sitting in the rear portion.

Staff Sgt. James R. Andrews, 31, of Los Angeles, was pronounced dead at El Centro Regional Medical Center Saturday of “massive head and neck injuries” sustained when he ejected from the helicopter, according to Imperial County Chief Deputy Coroner David Prince.

Andrews and five others were picked up at the crash site by a second helicopter and flown to El Centro Naval Air Facility. The other five on board were treated at NAF and released, Merrill said. Martin Moore, spokesman for Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford Conn., which manufactured the helicopter, said in a telephone interview this morning that his company built 400 Sea Stallions between 1985 and 1975 for the Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force.

“They’re an old work horse,” he said, but he did not know how many of them are still in service.


20 years ago — A Westmorland motorist was injured and ended up in a field southeast of here after he tried to pass a car driven by an Ontario man on Highway 111 on Sunday.

Enrique Maldonado, 45, of Westmorland ended in a field after striking a car driven by Isaias Estranda, 41, of Ontario while trying to pass just after 10 a.m. Sunday on Highway 111 north of Mansfield Road, according to a report from the California Highway Patrol.

Highway Patrol Officer Ken Chase reported Maldonado was heading south on Highway 111 when he attempted to pass Estrada’s car and struck the rear of that vehicle with the front of his own car Maldonado’s car went onto the west shoulder and into a field.

He received minor injuries in the accident according to Chase. Evelia Estrada 35, of Ontario; Maria Rodriguez, 38; Reyna Estrada, 59, and Maricela Estrada, 28, all of Claremont, were in the car with Estrada.

No one in Estrada’s car was injured and all were wearing seat belts, according to Chase. Maldonado was wearing a seatbelt, Chase reported. He was taken to Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley for treatment.

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