Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Commissioner Kestner speaks on downed planes at Lake County Historical Society

Visiting the Lake County Historical Society’s (LCHS) monthly meeting was Commissioner Ken Kestner. He was their guest speaker to educate members on the three crashed planes in Lake County lakes. The meeting was held at the Western Villa on Thursday, Jan. 15.

Kestner came prepared with a variety of images that were prepared by Dept. Sheriff Chuck Pore for the members to pass around that depicted the remains that were found on the lakebeds. One of these panel images was of the supposed airplane models Helldiver, a Corsair and a P38 that are thought to be the ones that crashed.

Residents of the Goose Lake area reported recently of lootings of the planes, said Kestner, which gave alarm to government agencies to pay attention to these historical planes and the soldiers who flew them. Kestner said that federal law gives ownership of the planes to the government. He added an interesting tidbit that the planes were picked up by ice over the years and carried them across the bed, leaving “scars” on its bottom.

Kestner told a story of two Lakeview men in 1950 who retrieved one of the airplane’s engines by use of snow sled. When law enforcement tracked these men down, they claimed that they were vintage aircraft enthusiasts and “stole it to prevent it from being stolen,” Kestner said, earning much laughter from his audience.

Assuring them that the recovery is continuing with crews returning next spring, he gave some details how agencies are going about it. He said that human scent dogs were sent out to the sites where they picked up indications of a human presence around the cockpits of the plane though no human remains were found. Kestner added that Lynne Engelbert, a former Lakeview citizen who now resides in Central California, trained these dogs. Some of the dogs Englebert trained were a part of the recovery crew of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and also have discovered a 600-year-old cremation burial site in Alaska.

Member Marie Lee asked who was lost in the crash and if they had tried to recover them at the time. Kestner said that there were three different deaths with names unknown and that it is also unclear as to exactly what was recovered and the cause of the crashes.

Nearing the end of his presentation, Kestner addressed the members’ concerns about the emergency lakebed closures by the Department of State Lands (DSL) at the end part of last November.

“The DSL hasn’t seen anything like this before so they are writing the rules as they go,” Kestner said, adding that Lake County will be involved to see that the regulations will not grow to unreasonable measures.

For more information on the LCHS, contact Claudia Reeder at 541-219-0200.

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