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Sean

Cessna #N133BW Crash Site

On May 15th, Thomas Bruff's Cessna plane collided with the San Gabriel Mountains above Altadena during a thick, morning fog. It took authorities about eight hours to locate the crash site in steep terrain near Brown Mountain. Unfortunately Mr. Bruff had died in the wreckage.

Ever curious and interested in our local mountains, today Dima and I went looking for that recent wreckage.

This is how the plane used to look.



And this is how the crash site looked in the online news footage.



Also online could be found the GPS tracklog for the flight, which, by the way, is fairly accurate, except for the final coordinates near Mt. Deception.

At first I thought the wreck might be in the Saucer Branch of Millard Canyon. Some of the rock in that gully seemed to match the news photos. But a scouting effort proved unfruitful. And so I suspected it might instead be in the upper, unseen reaches of El Prieto Canyon. This idea was bolstered by a report I received from Bob Musselman, who lives in Altadena and witnessed the search and rescue helicopter hovering over that same area.

With this information, Dima and I started out from Eaton Saddle this morning and took the Mt. Lowe Road to the Tom Sloane Saddle Trail to the Brown Mtn. Trail. We signed the register on the summit and tucked it back into the enormous rock cairn. Then we began the search.

First we walked to the western edge of Brown to get a better look at a small spur ridge jutting southward from the middle of the summit.



Nothing there.

Then we walked back across the summit to the eastern edge, where a prominent ridge heads southward, separating Saucer Branch on the left from El Prieto on the right.



We dropped a few hundred feet along this ridge and arrived at a modest outcropping of red rock.



At this moment Dima looked west and said, "What is that? One of those balloons?" Both of us scramblers are always finding wayward party balloons in isolated regions of the mountains. We've probably packed out dozens of these things.

I glanced where he was pointing.



"That's too big to be a balloon. You found the crash site!" I exclaimed.

We moved for a better look.



From our position, maybe a hundred line-of-sight yards away, the debris field contained at least several large pieces of the plane. Definitely worth further investigation.

We spent a few minutes identifying the best route to the wreckage, which was perched and scattered astride a steep rocky rib of the El Prieto headwall. I'll refrain from describing our exact route down in the interest of minimizing visitors to the site. The scrambling is dangerous on crumbling, exposed rock.

At the wreckage, we were a little surprised to realize that so much stuff had been left behind by the recovery crew, although we could imagine why they didn't spend more time than necessary on the cliffside. It's the sort of place where if you don't watch your footing very closely, you're likely to spend the next minute rolling down the mountain. In a few small spots we could stand upright and take pictures of the stuff.





In addition to pieces of the plane, we found many of Mr. Bruff's personal valuables, which we are attempting to hand over to his family. I have decided not to post pictures of his personal items, out of respect for Mr. Bruff's right to privacy, even though nothing we found was unusual. Just some phones, a watch, money, and other basic items.
tekewin

Amazing!  Nice sleuthing and a cool report. I hope you are successful in returning the personal items.
HikeUp

"Like"
dima

Before it got morbid, the morning view from Eaton Saddle was glorious:



Thanks for taking me along, Sean!
Uncle Rico

Nice work Gentlemen.
Taco

Very cool. Good on you guys for being super nice guys and getting in touch with his family.
TomR

N133BW crash site

Hi, I am (was) the owner of N133BW.  My partners and I were heartbroken at the loss of the aircraft and of our fellow club member, Thomas Bruff.  I wanted to visit the site, and am so glad someone did.  We searched for it from the air several times and could not get close enough to see any detail.  I would be very interested in talking to you about it.  Is there a way we can connect privately?   I can also connect you with Dr. Bruff's next of kin if you want to return the watch.  Thank you for your post about the crash site, and your sensitivity to the situation.    - Tom R
dima

Re: N133BW crash site

TomR wrote:
Is there a way we can connect privately?


Sent you a private message.
Sean

Re: N133BW crash site

TomR wrote:
Hi, I am (was) the owner of N133BW.  My partners and I were heartbroken at the loss of the aircraft and of our fellow club member, Thomas Bruff.  I wanted to visit the site, and am so glad someone did.  We searched for it from the air several times and could not get close enough to see any detail.  I would be very interested in talking to you about it.  Is there a way we can connect privately?   I can also connect you with Dr. Bruff's next of kin if you want to return the watch.  Thank you for your post about the crash site, and your sensitivity to the situation.    - Tom R


My condolences on your loss. I sent you a PM through this forum. There should be PM and Email buttons below this post. Click on them to contact me or Dima privately.

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