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Spy Plane Crashes; Pilot Killed

Thu., Aug. 8, 1996

A U-2 spy plane exploded and crashed into a newspaper building’s parking lot Wednesday, killing the pilot and at least one person on the ground. Two others on the ground were slightly injured.

“The wing just blew off and the plane spiraled right down,” said Robert Frutos, a technician working on a nearby radio tower. He said the plane burst into flames while still in flight.

Capt. Randy Roby, an experienced instructor assigned to Beale Air Force Base, radioed the Beale tower and declared an in-flight emergency a few minutes before the crash, and witnesses reported seeing a parachute.

Roby was found dead in his ejection seat, said Lt. Col. Dennis Linn Beale, a spokesman at the base about 25 miles southeast of Oroville. A civilian also was killed at the plane’s point of impact, police said.

A customer may have walked out the moment the plane plunged onto the parking lot at the Oroville Mercury Register, said Julie DeForest, an employee of the newspaper.

Two others were treated at Oroville Hospital for injuries related to the crash: a police officer who suffered from smoke inhalation and a 34-year-old woman who was knocked down by the blast.

Air Force officials said the plane went down about 2:15 p.m. in Oroville, 60 miles north of Sacramento.

The impact left a large area of charred blacktop outside the newspaper office but few discernible pieces of the plane.


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