The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department was notified on August 26, 2009, that a possible military aircraft crash site was discovered in the Santa Monica Bay by members of a historical group led by Pat Macha, an aircraft archeologist who searches for lost aircraft wrecks.
In coordination with military authorities, members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau, Aero Bureau, and Special Enforcement Bureau Emergency Services Detail responded to investigate the report.
A crash site was confirmed by Special Enforcement Bureau Emergency Services Detail divers approximately one and one half miles off of the coast in the Santa Monica Bay in approximately 115 feet deep waters. Over the last several weeks Sheriff’s Department divers, assisted by Los Angeles Port Police divers, battled severe currents and poor visibility to examine and document the site in an effort to locate crew remains, to answer questions surrounding the crash, and to bring closure to family members of the deceased. The wreckage was photographed and videotaped. Several pieces of the wreckage were recovered, including a portion of the engine, for further investigation. It has been determined that site is the wreckage of a Lockheed T-33A jet trainer that crashed in 1955.
The aircraft, piloted by US Air Force 1st Lieutenant Richard Theiler and 1st Lieutenant Paul Smith, originally took off from Los Angeles International Airport at 0215 hours on October 15, 1955. No transmission was heard from the aircraft after it had been given takeoff clearance. At 0355 hours, officials became concerned and attempted to contact the aircraft. The aircraft was declared missing at 0445 hours and search and rescue operations were initiated. The search was suspended on October 20, 1955, after an oil slick and an aircraft wheel were found in the area. The plane has been lost at sea for the last 53 years.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department investigators searched for and located the next-of-kin for the crew and notified them of the discovery.
The divers photographed and videotaped the recovery efforts, which are available by contacting Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau at (323) 267-4800.
For additional information contact Lieutenant Jack Ewell at (323) 243-0798.