|Pilot E. D. Frazar (survived) TX
Passenger TSgt Joseph M. Metz (survived) OH
Ditched May 28, 1945
Built by Curtiss as Model 84F. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as SB2C-4 Helldiver bureau number 19866.
Assigned to Bombing Squadron 84 (VB-84) and used for training missions until early December 1944. Next assigned to Bombing Squadron 14 (VB-14) to pilot E. D. Frazar with regular gunner Robert Kofnovec.
On May 28, 1945 took off piloted by E. D. Frazar with passenger U. S. Army TSgt Joseph M. Metz aboard instead of the pilot's regular gunner. Flying maneuvers at 1,500', when this Helldiver pulled out of a practice dive bombing run the engine quit and failed to restart. Without power, this Helldiver ditched into the Lower Otay Reservoir to the southeast of San Diego and east of Chula Vista.
Fates of the Crew
Frazar and Metz survived the ditching unhurt and swamp several hundred yards to the shore and were rescued.
This Helldier remained in situ roughly 200 yards from the shore at a depth of roughly 85' to 90' of water. During February 2009, discovered by Duane Johnson and Curtis Howard using their fish finder. They reported the find to the US Navy.
During August 17-20, 2010 salvaged by A&T Recovery with park ranger divers. On August 18 the canopies were salvaged. On August 19, 2010 the Helldiver was raised and on August 19, 2010 towed ashore. The salvage operation was witnessed by Frazar's son.
This recovery was funded by Naval Aviation Museum Foundation with money bequeathed to the museum by Marlon Overholt, a World War II pilot and former volunteer at National Museum of Naval Aviation (NMNA).
Mark Miller (salvage diver) adds:
"I found some communication cables, a headset and some other stuff floating around," said Miller. "It's hard to see. It's zero visibility."
Afterwards. transported to National Museum of Naval Aviation (NMNA) for storage and to await restoration. It appears no restoration work has been done to this Helldiver since it arrived due to a lack of funding.
Frazar (son of Frazar)
Navy Serial Number Search Results - SB2C-4 Helldiver 19866
"19866 (VB-14) ditched in Otay Lake, CA May 28, 1945 due to engine failure. 2 crew OK. Accident report erroneously listed this plane as being 19886. The plane was raised from the lake Aug 20, 2010 and will be restored for display at Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, FL. The serial was confirmed to be 19866."
SOS "Prep work beginning to raise WWII plane from Otay Reservoir"
July 14, 2010
Eastlake "Lower Otay Reservoir will be closed to the public the week of August 16 – 22, 2010, to allow a salvage operation to recover a World War II dive bomber" Aug 7, 2010 (video)
SOS "Finding airplane tops any fish story for two San Diego anglers" Aug 16, 2010
SOS "Family members tour World War II Helldiver's crash and recovery site" Aug 17, 2010
SOS "Helldiver Airplane Dive Operation" Aug 17, 2010 (photos)
NBC "Helldiver Raised From the Deep" Aug 18, 2010 (video)
SOS "Helldiver plane to be raised Thursday" Aug 18, 2010
SOS "Raising of Helldiver plane gets delayed" Aug 19, 2010
YouTube "WWII Plane Lifted From Bottom of Calif Reservoir" Aug 20, 2010 (video)
Eastlake "World War II Navy Helldiver Bomber Airplane Raised in Otay Lakes Aug 20, 2010
Warbird Resource Group (WRG) Curtiss Helldiver Registry - Hellldiver/Bu. 19866
Historic Aircraft Wrecks of San Diego County (2016) by G. Pat Macha mentions this Helldiver
Naval Aviation Museum Foundation - SB2C Hellcat Restoration
"Recovered from Otay Reservoir in 2010, SB2C-4 Helldiver Bureau Number 19866 is awaiting restoration at the National Naval Aviation Museum. The infamous Helldiver served as the successor to the SBD Dauntless dive bomber during World War II, and its eventual completion will fill an important gap in the Museum’s collection."
NMNA - Helldiver Rising Page 1-3
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May 28, 2020