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  • Randall Benton / RBenton@sacbee.com

    The search for a plane that crashed in 1965 and the victims of that crash was undertaken on Folsom Lake, where water levels are dwindling in the lingering drought conditions. The search was called on on Tuesday.

  • Photo illustration by Daniel Hunt / dhunt@sacbee.com

    A clipping from the Jan. 3, 1965, edition of The Sacramento Bee shows Placer County Sheriff’s divers Bruce Johnson and Frank Young searching for the plane that crashed into Folsom Lake after colliding with another plane two days earlier, killing four aboard. Nearly 50 years later, searchers have taken to the receded waters of the reservoir to search for remnants of the aircraft and three bodies that were never recovered.

Search of Folsom Lake ends after failing to pinpoint site of 1965 plane crash

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014 - 10:24 pm
Last Modified: Monday, Feb. 10, 2014 - 8:31 am

The search for the wreckage of a plane that crashed into Folsom Lake 49 years ago has been suspended.

“It was called off for right now because we didn’t have good information of where the plane went into the water,” said Gene Ralston, who with his wife, Sandy, spent three days using sonar on the lake in an effort to locate the plane, which crashed Jan. 1, 1965, killing all four people on board.

The search was conducted using information provided by Frank Wilcox, whose brother was one of the passengers who perished.

Ralston, who is based near Boise, Idaho, said Wilcox has been in touch with families of the other victims.

“They’re not sure where they want to go with the search,” Ralston said.

The plane carrying pilot Ford Marshall, 50, of Roseville; his brother, James Marshall, 51, of Southern California; Helen Gotcher of Roseville; and Glen Emick, a 15-year-old Roseville High School football player, plunged into the lake following a midair collision with another plane, according to stories in The Sacramento Bee. The other plane, piloted by Curtis Metcalf of Sacramento, was damaged but remained airborne and landed safely at what is now Sacramento Executive Airport, which had been cleared for an emergency landing. Neither Metcalf nor his two passengers were injured.

A search of the lake was conducted in the days following the crash, but only James Marshall’s body was recovered.

The El Dorado and Placer County sheriff’s departments assisted in the recent three-day search, which began Thursday, providing logistical support and security at the scene.

In announcing the end of the search, El Dorado County sheriff’s officials said some interesting areas in the lake were identified, but none of the images captured by underwater robotic and sonar equipment could be confirmed to hold signs of the crash, and no divers were sent into the water. The sites are inaccessible, officials said, citing near zero visibility and heavy concentrations of silt. The lake also contains numerous dangerous underwater obstructions, such as standing 50- to 60-foot tall oak trees.

Ralston said photos of the 1965 search would be helpful in determining where the plane crashed. It is believed search boats would have been anchored over the oil slick, he said. A white buoy marking the original search area reportedly remained at that location for some time after that initial search ended, he said. Photos from 1965 showing the search boats, buoy and landscape-type features would be helpful in any future search, Ralston said. Anyone with photos or information can email Ralston at glralston@mindspring.com.

Ralston said he and is wife have been volunteering their time for such searches for 13 years and have recovered the bodies of 91 people.

“All we ask is that our expenses be covered,” he said, adding that it is their mission to help families have closure following the loss of a loved one.


Call The Bee’s Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

Read more articles by Cathy Locke



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