On May 7, 1964, Pacific Airlines Flight 773 crashed into the side of a hill near San Ramon. Because of the magnitude of the tragedy, and the fact that the smoke from the crash was so bad, the principal of Sunol Glen School, Pete Corona, canceled classes. From Sunol we could see the smoke from the crash just about ten or fifteen miles north of us. Life magazine ran a big story about the incident with pictures in the May 22, 1964 issue.
The plane crashed within a couple of hundred yards of the big satellite tracking radar dish on the ridgetop in San Ramon, two towns north. It was one of the top ten worst California air disasters at the time, and the first significant use of hijacking as a “terrorist” weapon in the United States. Unknown to me at the time, among the 44 victims were San Francisco Police Inspector George F. Lacau, San Francisco’s Waterfront Bar and Restaurant owner Paul Marty, and their wives.
Some years later, Bob Hemphill would reveal to me exactly how and why this plane crashed. According to Bob, “Grand Chingon” William J. Bryan was legendary to insiders, famous for his monstrous deeds in circles of ultimate evil. Bob often boasted in bits and pieces about helping Bryan, who was a former airline pilot, brainwash a Philippine national named Francisco Gonzales.
Hemphill stated that they recruited Gonzales in San Francisco with filmed adolescent sex, and then used blackmail to help program him with poison and hypnosis at Santa Rita farm. Bob told me that Gonzales was prepared by Bryan to crash a Reno-to-San Francisco bound commercial airliner into a satellite tracking station. Gonzales was drugged while at the Palace Hotel in Reno, and triggered when the plane started to descend over the North Livermore Valley. According to the accident report, investigators discovered that Gonzales had advised both friends and relatives that he would die either Wednesday, May 6, or Thursday, May 7.
He referred to his impending death on a daily basis throughout the week preceding the incident. When the Fairchild F-27A (N2770R) with 43 other people started to descend over the safe house and mysterious ground-based wire antennae – Gonzales, fully triggered, pulled out his gun, entered the cockpit, and shot the pilot Ernest Clark. At 6:48 pm, the aircraft radioed its last message. First Officer Raymond Andress was heard saying, “Skipper’s shot. We’ve been shot. Trying to help.”
Pacific Airlines Flight 773 actually flew over Santa Rita farm and crashed into the side of a hill near San Ramon. Bob suggested the whole terrifying tragedy was filmed below from the safe house. “We film everything.”