Lt. W. G. Offerman's Fatal Accident
May 22, 1961
USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42)
Lt. W. G. Offerman tangled in his parachute.
Photos & Accident Reports Contributed by Capt. Phillip (P.J.) Smith
Updated: November 6, 2014
Click on photo to enlarge.
These high-quality photos show the broken Crusader strut parts involved in the accident.
Eyewitness Statements of Accident
(11/6/14) I was on the crash crew at Cecil and went out on Lt.Offerman's mid air [see Crusader Mishaps]. I was later transferred to the FDR and ran into the Lieutenant on the flight deck. I told him I never expected to run into him again, especially flying those F8's. His words to me were, "I will fly those bastards til they kill me." It was a while after that when I was on the tractor that pulled the planes off the cat if they had a malfunction. I watched them put Offerman's plane on the cat and waved to him, he gave me a salute. That cat pulled down on the nose and the second they launched it, the landing gear blew with a bang. I saw the plane go off the bow kind of sideways. I ran over to the side and watched helplessly as he went down. I can still see it and have dreams about it thinking, there must have been something I could have done. I'm 75 yrs old now and it still haunts me. He was good guy and I think of him in that water and what he said to me all the time. Thank You, for giving me a chance to tell you about this, somehow I feel a little better. --- Kenny Boles
...[after ejecting} the pilot was free of his seat, 'chute opened at approximately 50-feet above the water. We waited for the ship to pass him on the starboard side, while doing this I opened the rescue hatch and got the seat ready to lower in the water.
I commented to the pilot that the man should have freed himself of his 'chute by now. I could see the man and the 'chute which was rapidly filling with water and submerging. It appeared to me that he was uninjured due to the fact that there were no apparent blood stains in the water and he was using his hands to try to keep afloat.
I next lowered the rescue seat to him and noticed the shroud lines entangled about his arms, yet he was still making an effort to stay above water. I lowered the seat all the way down into the water and it was next to him. He seemed unaware of the presence of the seat and continued to struggle. I then asked permission of the pilot to be lowered into the water to attempt a physical rescue.
I then raised the seat and got on it and the pilot lowered me into the water. While being lowered into the water I looked for the pilot but was unable to find him at first glance. I then saw him approximately 15-feet forward of the helo. When I got into the water his 'chute must have been beneath him pulling him down because he was not in sight. He was approximately four-feet forward of me and five-feet beneath the surface of the water, still trying to get above water. I tried to reach for the man and grab him. I could not reach him and then lost sight of him. The man did not have his Mae West inflated.
---Rescue crew from Heliocopter Unit 2, Det 37
The aircraft was in burner and the cat officer gave the launch signal . . . it continued a normal performance approximately one-third the way down the cat travel, when the starboard landing gear seemed to collapse in one smooth and direct motion . . . the aircraft seemed to continue with partial strut to the end of the flightdeck where it rose to about the 06 or the 07 level banking while it was airborne at the same angle as its list when it was on the catapult . . . almost immediately the canopy came off as his plane banked toward the starboard side of the ship, and he and the seat were right behind the canopy.
His seat separated and his 'chute streamed out. His 'chute flared slightly and he was jolted hard and was thrown almost into the parachute. He was being tossed in and through his shoud lines as this seemed to slightly collapse his 'chute. Then he came to the end of his lines again and the parachute came to its fullest blossom.
From that time on, I'm not sure at all what happened. I don't remember seeing Mr. Offerman hit the water or seeing him as the ship passed by. At that time I left the flightdeck and went below.
---Excerpts from Accident Statements of several VFP-62 flighdeck crewmen present. [signatures not legible].
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Created on ... July 10, 2013