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Father's Day Disappearance

Near San Jose, California

June 16, 1963

Work Hard, Play Hard...

Clifford Gillman, a heavy equipment maintenance contractor from Santa Clara, earned his private pilot's license in 1958, and loved to share flying with others.

Gillman took off in his single-engine Ercoupe, registered as N3770H, from Reid-Hillview Airport (RHV), near San Jose, on the afternoon of Father's Day at 5:30, with friend Robert Louviere, on what was planned to be only a short flight, then return and give another waiting friend a ride.  Both men were fathers, and looking forward to spending the evening with their respective families.

But the plane, and the two men aboard, disappeared.

Without A Trace...

When the pair were reported overdue, the Civil Air Patrol initiated a search, utilizing over a dozen planes, for the plane – focused on the coastal area between San Gregorio and Pigeon Point, near the Pacific Ocean.  The basis for the search was a pair of sightings in San Mateo county.

The first was from Ernest Werder, the chief ranger of the state division of forestry in San Mateo county, who said his lookout tower on Skyline Boulevard, near Woodside saw a plane fitting the description of Gillman's Ercoupe between 5:30 to 6 o'clock on the 16th. The plane was flying very low in a southerly direction, toward La Honda, according to those at the tower.

The second report was from Hans A. Nissen, a dental technician from Menlo Park, who told the C.A.P. that he and his family were driving north on Highway 1, after an outing at San Gregorio beach, when they saw the plane flying low along the beach, just under the fog, at around 6 o'clock. Nissen noted that the pilot was peering out the window as though trying to find out where he was.

But, at Calaveras Reservoir, east of Fremont and just ten miles from Reid-Hillview, an oil slick was spotted by a friend of Gillman, Edward Gasper, of San Jose. Also aboard the spotter plane was Gillman's wife.  But when deputies were dispatched to the lake, they were unable to find any sign of a wreck.

Twenty-Seven Years Later...

Over the intervening years, the children of Robert Louviere had returned often to Calaveras Reservoir, at times casting red roses onto its surface.

A drought swept California in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and water reservoirs throughout the state reported record low water levels. Maintenance work on Calaveras Reservoir, in conjunction with the drought, had lowered the water 100 feet by January of 1991. And as the water dropped, the shiny aluminum of a wrecked plane poked through the mud of the reservoir.

Near the wrecked plane, on January 5th, 1991, two skeletons were found. Using old medical and dental records, as well as the serial number on the plane's engine (a 4-cylinder, 75 horsepower Continental), the remains were positively identified by the county sheriff office as being that of Gillman's plane.







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This page last updated Tuesday, July 10, 2012

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