– 5 –
Lieutenant Gardner was en route to San Diego and had boarded the plane at Salt Lake City. He was seated in the third seat from the front on the left hand side, He testified, in part, as follows:
"... I remember that the plane seemed to have settled down to a smooth cruising level, and my recollection is that the seat belt sign had been turned off, and I know the 'No Smoking' sign had been turned off. That was turned off rather promptly after take-off.
"I had just loosened my seat belt—I hadn't taken it off entirely, but I had loosened it to give myself a little more room to settle in my chair, and was just about to doze off to sleep when I noticed this sudden acceleration as from the nose of the plane being pulled upward very sharply. Immediately I figured that there was something wrong, because I knew that transport planes weren't handled in that fashion, except in emergency.
"So, I reached down and pulled my belt as tight as it would go, again, and ripped open the curtain and looked out to see what I could see, if anything, and it proved I couldn't see anything at all that was rewarding.
"So then I just set back and relaxed, with my arms on the arms of the seat, and it was about this time that the plane seemed to reach its peak in the climb. It had reached by that time a nearly stalled position. I could feel it beginning to shake just a little bit, ready to give way, and then almost simultaneously, I felt a very sharp thud, and a scraping noise that seemed to come from the left side of the plane, where I would describe as under the left engine. My reasoning was that we had collided with something about in the vicinity of the left engine.
"Then after that nothing was apparent, exactly, except that the plane continued and it yawed around to the left as though it was slightly out of control, and I noticed that the pilot shoved the nose forward, to stop the stall. It seemed was though we might have just squeezed over the top of the ridge, or whatever it was we hit, and then it continued in a left turning flight, very unsteadily, for some time.
"It seemed about that time that I noticed a very rough sound in the left engine, but I wouldn't want to swear to it one way or the other, because sounds can be so confusing in a case like that, when you haven't the benefit of sight. I did think that the left engine was out, because of that shock.
"Then it seemed like a matter of thirty seconds wherein we continued in a very partially controlled flight, in an almost stalled attitude, turning slightly to the left, although not continually to the left, from then on right to the point of final contact with the ground.