Remembering CG1363, 55 years on
Near Strawberry Rock in Trinidad, California is the wreckage of an HH52 Seaguard with a sad story tied to it.
CG 1363, an HH-52 Seaguard helicopter that crashed in a severe storm during a rescue operation Dec. 22, 1964.
On Dec. 22, 1964, the helicopter crew was dispatched to Humboldt Bay, where roads were closed from flood damage, to assist with evacuations. At 2:48 p.m., the helicopter arrived in the Humboldt Bay area where Hansen, a local resident, volunteered to join the crew to help spot flood survivors and to help orient the crew to local landmarks. The helicopter crew, along with Hansen, began evacuating people from rooftops and flood areas, ultimately saving 10 lives.
At 6:03 p.m., weather conditions worsened and the Arcata Airport Flight Service Station (FSS) received a radio call from the helicopter, which was trying to land with three rescued people aboard in low visibility and high winds. Approximately eight minutes before the radio call the airport had lost power, disabling the radio navigation beacon that was necessary to navigate to the airport.
FSS instruments indicated that the helicopter was northwest of the airport. The controller continued to radio the pilot steering directions to help him land.
The pilot reported that he was at 1,000 feet and asked if that altitude would clear all obstructions along his path to the airport. The FSS controller replied that 1,000 feet might be inadequate due to high terrain just east of his bearing. A citizen living 12 miles north of the airport along the coast reported seeing a helicopter about one mile offshore and heading south. FSS attempted to relay the report to the pilot but could not regain communications. Repeated calls to the helicopter were met with silence.
Three days after losing contact with the crew of CG 1363, a U.S. Navy helicopter from the USS Bennington located the crash and directed ground search parties to the site. The helicopter had crashed on a slope at 1,130 feet of elevation nine miles north of the Arcata Airport near a landmark today known as Strawberry Rock. Located with the wreckage were seven dead; the three crewmen, Hansen, two women and an infant girl.
Each year Sector Humboldt Bay honors the lost crew. USCG LCDR Donald Prince, from New Jersey; Royal Canadian Navy Sub-Lt. Allen Leonard Alltree; and USCG Petty Officer 2nd Class James A. Nininger, Jr., from Virginia, a Coast Guard Air Station San Francisco-based helicopter crew, as well as Bud Hansen, a citizen volunteer are remembered in an annual ceremony.
The Sector maintains a memorial at the installation, including some of the skin from the airframe of CG 1363.