Happy party turns into tragedy
09/25/1972 12:00 AM
09/07/2012 11:04 PM
Originally published Sept. 24, 1972
“I wonder where Mama is,” said 12-year-old Christi Kiehn last night, waiting near the emergency room of the county hospital where her injuries had been treated.
Christi had been one of the party of nine including both parents, four brothers and sisters and two neighbors, who had been celebrating inside Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour Restaurant when tragedy struck late yesterday.
Christi’s mother was not at the hospital last night. She had been one of the 22 persons killed in what is believed the worst air-ground tragedy in state history.
Christi’s parents, Mr. And Mrs. Ruben Bacci, had driven 60 miles from Stockton for the long-promised treat, a gigantic ice cream dish called The Zoo that is served with elaborate fanfare – beating of drums, ringing of bells and the whine of sirens.
When the F-86 jet slammed into the ice cream parlor seconds after attempting takeoff from Executive Airport, the noisy and popular ritual was under way.
“So when they delivered it – and then all these other things happened at the same time, I thought it was just part of the gimmick,” said Christi.
Them she says, “Everybody started screaming and running.
“All of a sudden I saw tables flying out the back of the room and they hit people. They hit the ice cream, too, and smashed it flat.
“Then it was all wet and I saw that the sprinklers – they have them for fire, you know – the sprinklers in the ceiling were spouting water down on everybody. And, then I saw Kerri. She was bleeding.”
Christi grabbed 3-1/2-year-old neighbor Kerri Francis, crawled over two tables and pushed her into the arms of a man standing by a window. “Then, I climbed out myself through a little bitty hole,” she said.
Outside she found her stepfather and Kerri’s twin sister Kristi Francis, who apparently had suffered a broken leg and was cared for by an 18-year-old student, Ana Camacho.
When the ambulances arrived they went to the hospital for treatment of their injuries, and to await word from Christi’s mother, and to await word from Christi’s Mrs. Joan Bacci, 48.
But the tragedy was twofold. It was later learned that little Kristi Francis, too, was dead from the crash.