By Keith Gibson
Plane Crash-April, 1935
The young, 5 year old boy, Dale Clays, was beaming with pride as he helped push the orange and black J-5 Stearman plane out of the Salt Lake City hangar. His two uncles, Ernest and Leonard Clays, had flown the plane from Reno to visit relatives. They had agreed to let Dale help them.
The brothers had been raised in McGill on J Row and had graduated from WPHS. They later moved to Reno.
They had borrowed the plane from a Reno auto dealer. It was a two seater, open cockpit with the older brother Ernest at the controls.
Dale told me the story in an interview in 2015 for my book, “Making America’s Copper”. Dale recently passed away.
On, July 23, 2017 I spoke on the phone with Barbara Grant Shawcroft. Her mother Mrs. Grant was a well loved, teacher at the McGill Grade School. Barbara was nine years old at the time of the accident.
She had just finished lunch at her home on E Row and was returning to the grade school, when she saw the plane come down. She went to the scene and watched as the Clays brothers were carefully transferred to the pickup of the Assuras Brothers Market. They were taken to the emergency hospital at McGill, where Dr. Hovenden and Nurse Netty Bruce made a valiant but unsuccessful effort to save them.
The accident was apparently caused by the engine stopping suddenly, as they circled over the north east part of McGill just south of the slag ditch flume. One witness said he heard the engine quit and the pilot trying to restart it. They were at a low altitude and couldn’t recover in time.
The WP County Judge Johnson convened a 3 man jury to rule on the accident. The three men were Henry Clark, W.S. Patterson, and E.T. Gibson. They had witnessed the accident and ruled it as such. I never got to talk with them about the accident and didn’t really know about it until just a few years ago when David Robb showed me a picture of the plane. He contacted the FAA and using the number off the tail, the owner was identified.
David talked with the son of the owner. I was able to speak with some witnesses such as, Solon Cononelus, Mr. and Mrs. Steve Bakaric, my father Earl Gibson and Bonnie Mesic.Doug and Kathleen Harwood have been a great help in researching this event. Doug is Dale’s nephew.
More information can be found in the April 12 , 1935 issue of the Ely Record newspaper. Robb’s picture of the plane can be found in my book on page 75. My thanks to all who helped in the research.