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Fri, Aug 20, 2010

Divers Work To Salvage Helldiver

First Attempts Were Stymied By Mud, Breakdowns

Divers attempting to salvage a rare SB2C-4 WWII Helldiver from the bottom of the Lower Otay Reservoir near San Diego were frustrated earlier this week when a pump needed to clear mud from in and around the airplane broke down, forcing them to abandon the attempt.

Helldiver File Photo

The aircraft, flown by Navy pilot E.D. Frazer, went down in the reservoir on May 28t, 1945.  Both he and gunner Joseph Metz survived the ditching and swam the 300 yards or so to shore, but the Helldiver sank to the bottom of the lake.

The first attempt Tuesday was slowed when a silt pump broke down, costing salvage company A&T Recovery, about three hours of down time while a pump borrowed from the city was brought to the site. A & T was still working to vacuum thick mud out of the plane on Friday. Taras Lyssenko (the "T" in "A&T") told the San Diego Union that they will have to be very delicate getting the plane to the surface. "It crashed, so it's wounded" he said. It was not known if the engine was still attached to the fuselage or what condition the airplane was in after 65 years under the water. Lyssenko said they would make that assessment when they had cleared enough mud from around the plane to see its condition, and make a plan from there.

Divers have already recovered several artifacts from the site, including the 1943-vintage life raft and some parts of a parachute, which was blamed for clogging and breaking the pump.

Meanwhile, the visibility on the bottom of the lake is reportedly  "near zero" as salvage attempts continued on Friday. The project is being directed by the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, FL, which intends to restore and display the salvaged Helldiver ... one of only a handful still in existence. Only one is known to be in flying condition.

FMI: www.navalaviationmuseum.org



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