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As It Was: Trinity Alps Plane Crash Changes Aviation Forever

In March 1967, a private plane took off from Portland for San Francisco with pilot Alvin Oien, his wife, Phyllis, and their teenage daughter, Carla.  The plane never reached its destination. A massive search gave up after two weeks.
The Cessna had crashed in the rugged, snow covered Trinity Alps, about 35 five miles west of Redding.  Although injured, the entire family initially survived.  Carla’s diary details how they played pinochle by fashioning a deck of cards out of the plane’s ripped upholstery and kept spirits high by talking about food.  All they had to eat were a few packs of candy, three small jars of jelly, toothpaste and milk of magnesia tablets.

The father left on foot through deep snow to seek help, but never came back.  The mother and daughter died after two months from starvation and exposure.  Hunters found their bodies that October.

Haunted by Carla’s journal, a Colorado senator proposed that all civil aircraft be equipped with Emergency Locator Transmitters.  A law was enacted in 1970.  

Because of the Oien family tragedy, thousands of other plane crash victims in the decades since then have been located alive.

"Girl Kept Diary For 54 Days Before She, Two Others Died." Madera Tribune, 3 Oct. 1967, p. 1. Mansell, Alice. "Civil Air Patrol News: Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTs)." Washington State Department of Transportation, WSDOT, Oct. 2000, www.wsdot.wa.gov/aviation/SAR/ELT_History.htm. "The Oien-Corbus Family." McMenamin's Blog, McMenamin's, 5 Dec. 2017, blog.mcmenamins.com/the-oien-corbus-family/

Valerie Ing was a teenager when she hosted her first music program on the airwaves. As a student at SOU, she was JPR’s Chief Student Announcer and the first volunteer in our newsroom. She's now JPR’s Northern California Program Coordinator, hosting Siskiyou Music Hall from JPR's Redding studio in the Cascade Theatre.