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Pilot Critically Injured In Second Major Crash At Navy Air Show

April 25, 1988

EL TORO, Calif. (AP) _ The pilot of a supersonic attack jet underwent surgery today for critical injuries suffered when his plane crashed during a performance at the Marine Corps Air Station here, a hospital official said.

Col. Jerry Cadick, 45, of Evansville, Ind., was performing a loop maneuver Sunday when the F-A-18 Hornet crashed in front of a crowd of 150,000, said Cpl. Kent Fletcher. None of the thousands of spectators was injured, but the air show was immediately canceled.

Cadick underwent surgery early today at Mission Regional Medical Center in nearby Mission Viejo and remained in critical condition with multiple injuries, said nursing supervisor Sonsee Bremner.

The jet crashed but did not explode in a grassy area separating a taxi way and a runway about 1,000 yards from the audience watching the 38th annual Navy Relief Air Show, said Lt. Shawn Cooper. The jet wasn’t part of the Navy’s Blue Angels precision flying team, which performed before the crash.

″The jet crashed in between a taxi way and a runway in the middle of the field,″ she said. The accident occurred about midway through the show.

″The aircraft itself did not burn,″ said Gunnery Sgt. Peggy Cauley. ″There was some fire there from the afterburners, but that was in the grassy area and it was immediately extinguished.″

Witness J.L. Eppstein, an Irvine police officer, was directing traffic when the jet crashed.

″He came in low and kind of stalled. It was like he couldn’t get it going,″ Eppstein said. ″The tail hit the ground. He slid for a ways and then hit a dirt mound. When he stalled, it was like getting your car stuck in the mud.″

Mike Tyszka of West Covina also witnessed the impact.

″We saw it hit the ground,″ he said. ″It looked like it lost power. His nose was up and then all I saw was dust.″

The F-A-18 is a twin-engine fighter-bomber flown by both Navy and Marine pilots.

The crash was the final blow to this year’s planned two-day event. Saturday’s opening festivities were canceled when a rainstorm swept through Southern California.

The show is put on each year to aid the Navy Relief Society, which allocates grants, provides interest-free loans and other services to Navy personnel and their families.

″An investigation will be conducted to determine the cause (of the crash),″ Staff Sgt. Steve Short said.

It was the second major accident in three years at the yearly show in this city about 50 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles.

On April 27, 1985, pilot Merrel Richard Gossman, 55, of Canoga Park, a former Marine pilot who was demonstrating a vintage trainer plane, and passenger Robert G. Arrowsmith, 25, a civilian stationed at the El Toro station’s medical clinic, were killed when the World War II plane they were flying crashed into an empty church on base.

Both were members of the Condor Squadron, an organization whose members perform stunts during air shows. About 200,000 spectators viewed the crash.

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