ssile hit the garage and house on Fourth Street
East, home of J. R. Hingle. One fragment barely
missed certain Lilly Willigham who was visiting
him at that time. 17 year old Larry Kempton was
driving a family car along Palmdale Boulevard
under the close supervision of his mother Bernice. One of the missiles exploded right in front
of their car. The fragments tore the left front tire
and made 17 holes in the cooler, hood and windshield. Miraculously Larry and his mother did
not suffer any injuries.
The damage assessment and search for the
unexploded missiles were launched immediately. Captain Sewell Griggers from the Los
Angeles Sheriff’s Office during his flight in the
helicopter spotted two missiles stuck in the
ground on the empty property in Palmdale. Sheriff’s Office pyrotechnicians promptly detonated
them. The USAF personnel from Oxnard air
base were also deployed to search the stricken
area. As a result, another 13 unexploded missiles were found between Palmdale and Santa
Clarita. Edwards air base pyrotechnicians were
called in to destroy them.
And what was the fate of the protagonist of this
disaster? After Scorpions fired all of their missiles and turned back to their home base as
they were running out of fuel, Hellcat flew over
Palmdale. It was also getting short of fuel and
therefore it started to descend with a coughing
engine until it crashed in the desert 8 miles (13
kilometers) East of Palmdale. It completely disintegrated into pieces. Right before the impact
it broke the electrical wires running along the
unpaved road. Three broken wires were ultimately the only damage it caused on the ground.
Neither the Navy nor the USAF could have possibly predicted that. There was a real threat of
an uncontrolled drone crashing into the densely
populated area causing loss of life. So, they did
all possible to prevent this from happening. That
nothing went as planned on that day was possibly even good luck. During the actual combat
the Scorpions’ failure could have had a much
Preserved red color of Hellcat.
A pile of debris from the crashed Hellcat.
The label is still readable today.
Hellcat crashed into the desert 8 miles (13 kilometers) East of the airport in Palmdale.
Upon the impact its right wing hit the sand, the aircraft somersaulted and completely
disintegrated. Its pieces can still be found there today. In December 2020 Tom Rosquin
visited the crash site and published his photographs on social networks. We obtained his
kind permission to publish them here. Thank you Tom!
INFO Eduard - FEBRUARY 2022