Thank you so much to the Huntington Beach City Council for approving, by a vote of 7-0, to proceed with the creation of a marker to honor the Silva and Barrego families, who each lost two children on a tragic afternoon when a P-38 fighter plane, abandoned by its pilot, exploded in a ball of flame on the beach near Newland and Pacific Coast Highway. The Silva family and I brought this matter to council just one month ago to request a marker and we appreciate their swift reaction to this. As well, we’d like the marker to honor the first-responder HB lifeguards, led by Bud Higgins, who assisted in this tragedy – a day in which the war was brought home for many locals.
This was what the pilot wrote in the official accident report:
And the report went on to make a clear case of pilot error for the accident.
Additionally, a page from the report indicates that the children, before being rushed to the Orange County Hospital in Orange, were tended to at the office of a Doctor Lawrence F. Whittaker at 302 Third Street, where a dose of morphine was administered to each of the children.
A visit to the site reveals that the doctor’s home/office building is still there today. It’s hard to imagine the horror that was the scene here that late summer afternoon. But if you ever happen to be walking by, perhaps pause for a moment to take in the memory of those children, the doctor and all others that were helping on a haunting day that lives as perhaps the worst accident in Huntington Beach history.
(Post script–my friend Duane Wentworth added: “He (Dr. Whittaker) actually treated me in 1958 when I broke my arm in 4 places. He couldn’t set my arm in his office and personally drove me to to Hoag Hospital. Good doctor.”)