New Memorial Dedication Ceremony Today for 1996 U-2 Crash

Nov 22, 2013 7:03 PM

It’s been more than 17 years since that tragic day in the Thermalito neighborhood of Oroville.

Action News Now has recovered some captivating video from an unidentified witness in the moments following the tragedy in Oroville.

By the time he was out of his plane and in the sky, Beale Air Force pilot Randy Roby, was already dead.

“A U-2 aircraft has just crashed. It looks like the Oroville newspaper took the direct hit. I'm up on Nelson. The pilot just landed on Nelson….”

And his plane, a U-2 spy plane, had already crashed, inviting pure chaos to the quiet Thermalito neighborhood of Oroville.

“I looked up, saw the plane coming down, it was on fire. I watched it as it impacted the ground at the Oroville Mercury Register,” Oroville Police Officer Jack Berry said.

Officer Berry jumped in his squad car, arrived on the scene, and looked inside for victims.

Nobody was dead inside, but outside; Oroville resident Geraldine Vering was already dead.

Vering had just paid for her subscription inside, and was going to get married:

“It’s worse than a nightmare. Like a bad dream you just hope you wake up, hope it's not true,” Vering’s Fiancee George Johnston said.

Even though Vering's life was not spared, pilot Roby is credited with saving many others.

An experienced pilot, Roby reportedly diverted the U-2 to a less-populated area.

“The bottom line is, captain Roby was one of our best, most experienced pilots in a U-2,” a Beale Spokesman said at the time.

Roby was a father, husband, and U-2 enthusiast:

“It's an unusual experience one can't describe. It's the best ticket at Disneyland, and you're in charge of it,” Roby once said.

Unusual is maybe the best way to describe what happened on August 7th, 1996.

A situation captain Roby seemingly had no charge, no control over.

But more than 17 years later, we can control how Roby, and Vering, are remembered.

Today, a new memorial for them is set in stone, and here to stay.

Captain Roby declared an in-flight emergency at 20,000 feet, moments before the crash.

U-2's are still operated out of Beale and can reach heights above 70,000 feet.


Most Popular