Verde Heritage -- 1938: VULTEE ARCH

"Vultee Arch, a natural bridge near Sedona, standing stark and dwarfed against a partially wooded hillside, once witnessed tragedy."

"At least three Sedona sites, two sink holes and one natural bridge, are named for the devil. This one, which probably should have been, was not, possibly because the name Devil's Bridge had previously been given to another natural formation a few miles to the south."

"Instead, Vultee Arch was named for the victims of the devil's work that brought Gerard F. and Sylvia (Parker) Vultee to their deaths in a flaming plane crash during a heavy snow storm on January 29, 1938."

"Vultee, and aeronautical designer whose aircraft were world-renown in his day, had taken off from Winslow with his wife on the last lap of a cross country trip on route to their home in Glendale, Calif. He was flying without radio and is said to have been warned of the impending storm, but, reportedly something of a daredevil when it came to flying, had failed to heed the warning."

"The single-engine Stinson monoplane is believed to have caught fire in the air before it plunged to its destruction in Barney Pasture behind the rim of 7,116-foot Wilson Mountain above Sedona."

"Sedona rancher Earl Van Deren told deputy Sheriff Ernest Yost of Flagstaff he had seen a flaming plane nose toward the ground that grim Saturday morning, and other ranchers reported having heard a plane motor sputter and die near Oak Creek Canyon. Gerard's wrist watch, later recovered, had stopped at 9:56 a.m., one hour and 21 minutes after the Winslow takeoff."

"Because the Sheriff's Department men were not equipped with two-way radios or walkie-talkies at the time, and because of the ruggedness of the wilderness terrain involved, contemporary newspaper accounts of how the bodies were retrieved are in conflict with each other and contain some errors."

"The following information has been obtained from former deputies Yost and J. Forrest Willis, both of whom live in Flagstaff."

"Under the direction of Coconino County Sheriff Arthur Vandevier, now a Sedona resident, the two deputies went down into Oak Creek Canyon, where rancher witnesses pointed out the approximate location of the crash. Yost and Willis decided that the only way to get into the area was by a trail behind Junipine Lodge that climbs the mountain to East Pocket Lookout. The trail takes off from behind Slide Rock and climbs to an elevation of nearly 7,000 feet."

"At the time there was a CCC camp in Sedona where the King's Ransom Motor Hotel now stands. Accompanied by 15 CCC boys, Willis went up the trail, leaving Yost at the bottom to halt curiosity seekers. The search party, after climbing 5 hours through deep snow, found the wreckage about 3,000 feet beyond the rim."

"'From there I could look down and see Dry Creek,' Willis reports."

"The site was about 33 miles south of Flagstaff overlooking Sterling Canyon, where the natural bridge stands. Nothing remained of the plane except the charred framework."

"Willis sent two boys down the trail to report the find, then built a huge bonfire to keep warm in the sub-freezing weather and to mark the spot for other searchers."

"It was still daylight, and Sheriff Vandevier dispatched a truck with a snowplow to break trail through snow that was two feet deep in many places. The search party went in via the Barney Pasture road west of Flagstaff and found the going so rough that they did not reach the wreckage until just before midnight. They had had to walk the last three miles."

"The bodies of the Vultees, burned beyond recognition, were strapped to stretchers and brought into Flagstaff. Thereafter, the natural bridge in Sterling Canyon, which had been known since 1885 but never named, was officially christened Vultee Arch in memory of the unfortunate flyer and his lovely wife."

"By Elizabeth Rigby, Sedona News Editor."

(The Verde Independent; Thursday, June 12, 1969; "Story of Vultee Crash;" page 18, columns 1-2.)

"VULTEE ARCH MARKER PLANNED."

"Plans have been announced by the Vultee Club of Downey, Calif., to erect a memorial marker near Vultee Arch, a natural bridge in the Sedona area."

"Vultee Arch was named for Gerald [Gerard?] F. Vultee, an aeronautical designer of world renown, who crashed with his wife in an airplane near the arch during a heavy snow storm on January 28, 1938." [Jan. 28 or 29?]

Standing stark and dwarfed against a partially wooded hillside, Vultee Arch today is a hikers and horseback riders goal over an easy 1.6 mile trail from the end of Dry Creek Road."

The marker will be a 14 x 20 inch inscribed bronze plaque with an arrow pointing to the site of the crash on the plateau above, according to A. E. (Sandy) Sandstrom, president of the Vultee Club, who was in Sedona recently as a guest of Mr. and Mrs. Ellsworth Schnebly."

"The Vultee Club is made up of 1,200 present and past Vultee (now Convair) employees throughout the nation. Sandstrom is supervisor of maintenance and construction for the electronics division of Northrop Corporation at Hawthorne, Calif."

"For some time members of the Sedona Westerners have been attempting to piece together the facts about the Vultee crash. They have marked the trail to the Arch (although vandals have removed some of the markers) and have in their possession a collection of yellowing newspaper clippings discovered in January, 1968, in the old Van Deren cabin near the start of the trail by Westerner members Charles Thompson, Ruth Coleman, and June Dieckmann."

"In September, the Westerners visited Barney Pasture to examine the remains of the wreckage."

(The Verde Independent; Thursday, June 5, 1969; page 1 column 3.)

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