WWII Bomber to Resurface After 65 Years

Plane will be lifted out of Otay Lakes.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Tony Shin reports

    The Navy started the recovery process on Monday to salvage a World War II bomber that crashed in Otay Lakes in 1945.

    The plane, a SB2C-4 Helldiver, had a mechanical failure when it crashed into the lake, said Arian Collins of the city of San Diego's Public Utilities Department.

    Deep Yields Sunken Helldiver's Secrets

    [DGO] Deep Yields Sunken Helldiver's Secrets
    A salvage team takes a closer look at a World War II plane found 85 feet below the surface by an angler using a fish finder. (Published Friday, Jul 24, 2009)

    The plane is deeply buried under a bed of silt, Collins said. The recovery crew is cleaning out the plane and clearing the space around the plane at the bottom of the lake.

    "They hope to float it to the top and float it in, and finally pull it from the reservoir on Wednesday," Collins said.

    The Day the Helldiver Went Down

    [DGO] The Day the Helldiver Went Down
    New details are emerging about the day it crashed into Lower Otay Reservoir. (Published Friday, Jul 16, 2010)

    On Tuesday, the crew hopes to bring the plane up to the water edge where workers can prepare it for transport. On Wednesday, there will be a crane in place to help remove it.

    If you are interested in getting a glimpse of the plane, Collins warns the parking lot at Otay Lakes is off-limits.

    "The parking lot will be closed for the duration of the project," Collins said. "If people are interested in seeing the plane, they may have quite a hike to get near the lake."

    The city’s water department is watching the recovery operation very closely. The water in Otay Lakes is used for San Diego's drinking water, Collins said. Workers are watching to make sure no gasoline or oil from the plane leaks into the water supply.

    According to Collins, the Navy recorded the the plane crash at the time, but the city didn't find out about the crash until sometime last year.

    People were just too worried about the war going on, they weren't too worried about a plane that crashed into a lake, Collins said.

    "The Navy assumed it was a lost cause and left it," Collins said.

    Both the pilot and the co-pilot survived the crash but have since passed away. Both pilots' families were invited to the plane's  removal on Wednesday morning.

    Once the plane is recovered, Collins said, it will be put on display at the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla.