Fri, Aug 20, 2010
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
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.
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