Saturday, February 29, 2020

Gone, But Not Forgotten...

USS Lexington (AVT-16)
This all started with a link to footage of a T-2C Buckeye attempting a touch and go aboard USS Lexington on the 29th of October, 1989. I've probably seen that video a dozen times. My youngest learned her trade in the backseat of the Buckeye. Seeing that video was personal, I know a number of men and women in naval aviation.

Watching the video* this time was different, I wondered, "Who was the pilot of that aircraft?" So I went looking, and found -
A Navy pilot was killed in a crash on the USS Lexington. October 29, 1989 - U.S. Navy T-2C Buckeye,BuNo 158876, of VT-19, crashes into Vultures' Row on the island of training carrier USS Lexington,AVT-16 during a wave-off  approach, operating in the Gulf of Mexico 22 miles South of NAS Pensacola, Florida, killing five and injuring 20. Killed were the student pilot, three seaman, and a civilian employee of the Navy.This was the last aviation accident on the Lady Lex before her retirement to a museum ship at Corpus Christi, Texas. Killed in the crash were the pilot, Ensign Steven E Pontell, 23, Columbia, Maryland, who was alone in the two-seat trainer; Lexington crewmen Petty Officer 3rd Class Burnett Kilgore Jr., 19, Holly Springs, Mississippi; Petty Officer 3rd Class Timmy L. Garroutte, 30, Memphis, Tennessee; Airmen Lisa L. Mayo, 25, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and a civilian employee of DynCorp who had the contract to maintain Navy aircraft, Byron Gervis Courvelle, 32, Meridian, Mississippi. (Source)
I could not find pictures of Mr. Courvelle or PO3 Garroutte, but I did find pictures of PO3 Kilgore and AN Mayo -


It is terrible to lose such fine men and women at any time, but to lose them in a training accident seems particularly bad. Truth be told, it happens far too often.

Now who was that young man attempting to get aboard for the very first time? The Naval Academy's Memorial Hall has this -

Steven E. Pontell, ENS, USN
USNA Class of 1988

(Source)
As I read the entry on ENS Pontell a little further on, I found this -
Steven's brother, Darin Pontell '98, was killed in the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
Darin H. Pontell, LT, USN
USNA Class of 1998

(Source)
LT Pontell was a classmate of my son-in-law Tuttle.

Fourteen Naval Academy graduates lost their lives on 9/11. I read further on that LT Pontell was one of three members of the Class of 1998 to have entries in the Memorial Hall:

Matthew Shubzda, LT, USN
USNA Class of 1998
LT Matthew Seth Shubzda, USN, died on October 18, 2002 during a training exercise in which he was simulating combat flying and his F/A-18F Super Hornet crashed into the Pacific Ocean 80 miles southwest of Monterey.
Seth R. Michaud, Capt, USMC
USNA Class of 1998
Captain Seth R. Michaud, USMC, a 27-year-old helicopter commander, died on June 22, 2003 in a military exercise in Djibouti when a B-52 dropped nine M117, general-purpose bombs during a practice mission. The bombs hit near troops and two Marine CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters parked adjacent to the bombing range, officials said. His was the only death in the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, which had begun training in counter-terrorism in Africa in November.
Raul D. Jimenez, LT, USN
USNA Class of 1998
LT Raul David Jimenez, USN, a Navy flight instructor and his student were killed January 27, 2006 when their training plane crashed three miles south of Naval Air Station Corpus Christi. The single-propeller T-34 crashed into a field off Yorktown Boulevard between Linda Lee Road and Madison Street at 9:43 a.m. The T-34C craft, assigned to Training Squadron 27, crashed while conducting routine flight training.
Dave (aka Fuzz) commented the other day -
Men and women give their all today. I hope their stories will someday be told.
We tell them as we find them.

Never forget...



Dusty today, awfully dusty...




* I won't post the video here, now that I know the names behind this horrific accident, I can't really bear to watch it again. It's here if you want to see it.

20 comments:

  1. An extra day to remember extra special people.........RIP all.

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  2. My friend's father was a Navy pilot right before the Vietnam war. He flew off, and on, the carriers during that time, including the Oriskany. His description of a landing was far from pleasant, and for someone to take on that task says much about their character. Those that perish during the training should be given honors for their effort. They didn't take on the task for an easy life, and their effort was for their fellow citizens.

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    Replies
    1. The Naval Academy does honor their graduates who died in the line of duty, whether in training or in war.

      They remember.

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  3. We all know that tomorrow is not guaranteed but it's definitely not when you're in the military and work a dangerous job. Especially landing on a carrier or working as crew on the "most dangerous six and a half acres in the world".

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  4. The sea is dangerous enough without taking the extra risks Navy pilots and crew take to sail on them.
    God bless them all.

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  5. For those who have given "the last full measure"

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiGU-0iElko

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    Replies
    1. Dusty in here.

      That's beautiful.

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    2. Again, thank you. The Orthodox Church does "good dead people stuff." My wife and I find if very comforting and full of hope.

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    3. Orthodox services can be very beautiful and awe-inspiring from what I've seen.

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  6. Having gloomy thoughts much lately?

    Being in the military is a dangerous thing. Early on in the Global War against Terror, training accidents and deaths on base not due to combat far outstripped combat deaths. Even during the bad days of daily IED attacks, it was still safer, for the most part, to be in combat than in training. Scary and freaky but true.

    Dead in service is dead in service, whether riding a desk (like my grandfather 2nd Lt. Gordon Cone, USMC, Annapolis class of '29,) a tank or a high performance fighter.

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    1. Not really in a gloomy mood, but when I find something of interest, I go where the story leads.

      That video of the Buckeye crash made me want to know the pilot's name, which led to the other stories.

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  7. I saw that video for the first time yesterday. Absolutely chilling. I don’t know how true this is but I was writing about my time at Fort Ord in basic training in the captain-the company commander-told us that in wartime half of the deaths are from accidents. Friendly fire and the like. Don’t know how true that is.

    I hope they show that video to aviation cadets and at least the ensign would not have died in vain if it saves one life

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    1. While there are a lot of deaths due to accident, even in wartime, 50% seems excessive. If true it points to some major failures in leadership. At least we're not losing most of our people to disease like we used to! (Pre-WWII that is.)

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  8. I can't listen to that song, Eternal Father, without getting choked up. I think I noticed Darin Pontell at the mid-point in that video. Not sure about the others.

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    Replies
    1. Same here, and yes, that was him with his family.

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  9. We honor our dead not because they died, but because they lived. For all the downsides, and there are plenty of them, it's pretty cool to be an ape-lizard.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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