45 years ago today, a Coast Guard Air Station Corpus Christi crew went out on a rescue mission and never returned home.
On Sept. 21, 1973, the crew of HU-16 Albatross CG2123 responded to a search and rescue call for a man reported overboard just east of the Port Aransas Jetties. As the crew began dropping hand-launched MK-45 parachute flares for a helicopter aircrew searching behind them, a fire erupted in the cabin. Intense smoke of the fire left the crew unable to ditch the plane.
Six crew members were lost that day. They were:
Lt. Cmdr. Francis W. Miller
Lt. J.g. Jerald M. Mack
Petty Officer 1st Class Harold D. Brown, Jr.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Benjamin R. Gaskins, Jr.
Petty Officer 2nd Class John F. Harrison
Petty Officer 2nd Class John P. Pledger
A ceremony took place today at Sherill Park to honor the fallen heroes.
Petty Officer 2nd Class John P. Pledger’s daughter, Tracy Pledger, was in attendance, visiting the area for the first time since the accident. She was only two years old when she lost her father.
“Even though it was 45 years ago, it was so long ago, it’s what I have lived with all of my life,” Pledger said. “But this coming here just makes it feel like it’s just happening. I feel like it’s the funeral I never got to go to.”
Pledger immediately moved to Utah after the accident with her mother and other family.
“I knew that they had done a stone memorial, I have pictures of it, and always wanted to come and just never made it,” Pledger said. Pledger was able to make a paper sketch of her father’s name on the memorial.
The memorial featured the Veterans Band of Corpus Christi and was officiated by Capt. Ed Gaynor, commanding officer of Sector/Air Station Corpus Christi.