2nd Lt William Wright and Kainalu Elementary School student Steven Schmitz were killed at 8:30 pm, November 20, 1961, when a “Skyhawk” attack bomber crashed in Kailua.
Two marine jet bombers collided over a residential area and one of them crashed into a home, killing the pilot and the 8 year old boy (son of Coast Guard Commander Frank C Schmitz.)
The planes were returning from a run at the target island (Kahoʻolawe). One plane made it back and landed safely with vertical stabilizer and rudder damage, the other plane went down.
In reconstructing the pieces of the plane in a base hangar, it was evident that Lt. Wright survived the initial impact and could have ejected, but chose to stay with his airplane and tried to dead stick it over the town and into Kailua Bay. Unfortunately, it wasn’t successful despite the heroic efforts of Lt. Wright. (Norm Spilleth)
A military crash crew reported it was unable to approach the plane for an hour after the crash. The jet hit the house squarely after parts of it fell near the Kainalu Elementary School.
Mrs. Robert Craig, principal of the school, said she heard the jets fly over during the PTA meeting (held that night,) then a loud explosion. She said a fence near the school was set afire and she saw the nearby home in a huge sheet of flame. (Chicago Tribune, November 21, 1961)
The matter was the subject of a public presentation by Dr Paul Brennan at a Kainalu Elementary School PTA meeting.
The following link will take you to a video of the presentation; it is followed by a forum discussion by some of the eye witnesses to the event.
The presentation by Brennan and following discussion by the eyewitnesses gives a broad perspective of what happened.
(I had been a 2nd grade student at Kainalu Elementary the year before – Nelia has been a Kainalu 5th grade teacher for the past 10+ years.) The image shows the sad headline.