Divers discover wreck of Korean War-era plane off San Diego coast

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SAN DIEGO -- Divers discovered a Korean War-era plane submerged off the coast of San Diego.

Dennis Burns found the plane offshore Mission Beach in a very shallow area, about 60 feet deep.

"We dove through a lot of rock piles and trash cans and then one day we found an airplane," said Burns.

"When he came up he was completely overwhelmed," said Dr. Ruth Yu.  "Even before he could get his mouthpiece off he was saying, 'It's a plane, it's a plane! I found a plane.'"

The aircraft has been positively identified by its official identification plate from the Bureau of Aeronautics as the A-1 Skyraider, or AD-4L, that crash-landed in 1953.

The war plane has been underwater for more than 60 years. It was found with four massive 20-millimeter cannons, two on each wing, and hundreds of other artifacts littered around the wreckage.

"It was just incredible that a wreck like that could lie so close to a populated area and not be found," Yu said.

Burns and Yu discovered another treasure: the pilot’s family.

“Just today I was talking to the daughter of the pilot whom, on the day of the crash, her mother was eight months pregnant with her and her father was out flying airplanes over the ocean and landing them in the ocean and they’re just beside themselves,” Burns said. “They’re wanting to come out and dive on the plane themselves.”

Burns went on to say even after the pilot Charles Kelly crashed the plane, he went on serving his country.

"They took him in an ambulance to the hospital and checked him and he went back to duty that afternoon as if nothing happened," said Burns.

Burns and Yu have traveled the world looking for treasure, but little did they know, the biggest trove was at home.

"I was stunned that the greatest thing I’ve ever dove was in my backyard," said Burns.

The couple is working with the San Diego Aerospace Museum to determine how they can share their discovery, while at the same time preserving it.

"We might do like a wet exhibit where we'll be able to show the underwater video or something," Yu said.

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