4:25 PM

What REALLY happened
the night the music died?

That's the question Jay Richardson – son of J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson – wants answered. He has hired Forensic anthropologist William Bass of the University of Tennessee to open an investigation into the 1959 crash that killed Richardson, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens in Mason City, Iowa.

I've always been a Buddy Holly fan, ever since watching the movie “The Buddy Holly Story” way back when. Holly was a pioneer of rock and roll, but Richardson and Valens deserve many kudos for pushing the envelope back in the days before the British invaded with guitars instead of long rifles.

The Big Bopper's son has lingering questions about the crash, and a review of the Civil Aeronautics Board's report seems to generate much to ponder. Despite the damage to the cockpit the following readings were obtained:

– Magneto switches were both in the "off" position.
– Battery and generator switches were in the "on" position.
– The tachometer r.p.m. needle was stuck at 2200.
– Fuel pressure, oil temperature and pressure gauges were stuck in the normal or green range.
– The attitude gyro indicator was stuck in a manner indicative of a 90-degree angle.
– The rate of climb indicator was stuck at 3,000-feet-per-minute descent.
– The airspeed indicator needle was stuck between 165-170 mph.
– The directional gyro was caged.
– The omni selector was positioned at 114.9, the frequency of the Mason City omni range.
– The course selector indicated a 360-degree course.
– The transmitter was tuned to 122.1, the frequency for Mason City.
– The Lear autopilot was not operable.
The CAB concluded this after completion of their investigation:
A Beech Bonanza, N 3794N, crashed at night approximately 5 miles northwest of the Mason City Municipal Airport, Mason City, Iowa, at approximately 0100, February 3, 1959. The pilot and three passengers were killed and the aircraft was demolished. At night, with an overcast sky, snow falling, no definite horizon, and a proposed flight over a sparsely settled area with an absence of ground lights, a requirement for control of the aircraft solely by reference to flight instruments can be predicated with virtual certainty. The Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the pilot's unwise decision to embark on a flight which would necessitate flying solely by instruments when he was not properly certificated or qualified to do so. Contributing factors were serious deficiencies in the weather briefing, and the pilot's unfamiliarity with the instrument which determines the attitude of the aircraft.
Richardson's son believes there are many unanswered questions about his father's death, like if he survived the crash only to die as he struggled to get help. His body was found in a field nearly 40 feet from the wreckage of the Beechcraft Bonanza. Also, there are questions about Holly's pistol and whether it had been fired.

It seems there are enough weird things about this CAB report to warrant further investigation. For instance, if the plane impacted an Iowa cornfield while in a 3,000-feet-per-minute descent with the airspeed indicator needle stuck at about 170 mph, why would have both mag switches be found in the off position? Those numbers indicate an immediate and surprising impact – probably in blinding snow – with virtually no time to switch the mags to off. Maybe someone can explain that one to all of us.

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