Cal Fire to Hold Memorial Dedication For 1996 U-2 Crash Victims

Nov 15, 2013 12:54 PM

By Nick Dobis, News Web/Social Media Producer

Butte County Cal Fire will be dedicating a recently placed memorial honoring an Air Force pilot and a civilian killed when the pilot’s plane crashed on August 7, 1996 in Oroville. The dedication will be held November 22 at 2 p.m. at Cal Fire's Headquarters located at 176 Nelson Avenue in Oroville.

“Although it has been over 17 years since the accident, the sacrifices made by the families of Capt. Randy Roby and Geraldine Vering will always be remembered by the civilians and emergency personnel that responded on that fateful day,” said Cal Fire Chief George Morris.

According to an Associated Press report filed the day after the crash, a U-2 spy plane piloted by Roby crashed at approximately 2:15 p.m. outside the offices of the Oroville Mercury Register in August 1996. According the report, a customer later identified as Vering had just walked out of the Register’s offices moments before the plane crashed to the ground and was killed at the plane’s point of impact.

An Oroville Police Officer suffered smoke inhalation and a 34-year-old woman was knocked down by the blast, according to the report. The woman was taken to Oroville Hospital and treated for bruises and temporary hearing loss.

Roger Aylworth, a columnist for the Chico ER who was an editor at the Register at the time of the crash, told Action New Now he recalls the plane was taken up from Beale Air Force Base for a post maintenance check flight. Alyworth recalls the paper reporting a pipe carrying super-heated gas to a fuel sump under Roby’s chair detached during the flight, subsequently causing an explosion at approximately 5,000 feet. Roby was ejected from the plane on his own accord or by the force of the explosion, but he was dead by the time he reached the earth.

County and Fire officials, as well as Air Force personnel from Beal Air Force Base, will attend the ceremony and the event is open to the public.


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