Researcher seeks relatives of Sandusky pilot killed in plane crash

Air Force Capt. James C. Wilson, a Sandusky-area native, was 35 when he died in a still-mysterious plane crash in 1958.
Tom Jackson
Oct 8, 2012

The crash, in Payette, Idaho, killed 19 people.

An Arkansas researcher, who is brother of another man killed in the crash, is trying to locate Wilson’s relatives, and also trying to make sure the crash isn’t forgotten.

Larry Good, 67, is the brother of Adrian Gayther, one of the Air Force men killed in the Oct. 9, 1958, crash.

The Air Force Fairchild Provider C-123B aircraft had a crew of five and was carrying 14 Air Force maintenance workers with the Thunderbirds air demonstration squadron when it crashed into a hillside six miles east of Payette. All aboard died.

A memorial stands near the crash site. Wilson is buried in Sandusky’s Oakland Cemetery.

His death was the lead story in the Oct. 10, 1958, Sandusky Register, “Ex-Sandusky Air Reserve Pilot Killed.”

The article said Wilson was a former member of an Air Force Reserve unit in Sandusky, and it noted his wife was from Sandusky and his parents lived in Port Clinton.

A follow-up article named his wife as the former Joyce Rudolph, of Sandusky. Wilson left behind two daughters, Jay Cheryl, 3, and Denise, 2, according to the article, and he was survived by his parents and two sisters in Port Clinton, Mrs. William Riddle and Mrs. Charles Ray.

Good said he has assembled a book-length document on everything he could learn about the crash, and he’s providing copies to relatives of the men who died.

He tracked down relatives of 16 of the 19 people aboard the plane, but he has had no luck whatsoever in finding any of Wilson’s surviving relatives in Erie or Ottawa counties.

A website devoted to plane crashes, Check-Six.com, says some witnesses reported seeing the plane fly through a flock of geese. It offers several theories for the cause of the crash.

“The investigation into the crash was unable to determine the primary cause of the accident, but concluded that the plane was overloaded, and that the pilot may have been incapacitated, crew rest restrictions violated, or the pilot seat was not occupied by qualified pilot. The theory of bird strike is still popular with many,” the website states.

Good offered another theory.

C-123s were all grounded after the crash for fuel problems, so perhaps a problem with the fuel caused the engines to sputter, he said.

The U.S government has refused to release all of the available information about the crash, despite the fact that it occurred more than 50 years ago, Good said.