Scene at a plane crash


I found this image over at the USC Digital Archive. According to the title, it shows the scene at the crash site of an experimental plane in 1951. Text written across the top of the image provides more detail: "Off. Gale Whitacre and crowd with plane James Martin killed in."

My question is, what's the deal with the guy in his underwear? Was he just wandering by and stopped to see what was going on? Was it a particularly hot day? I can't imagine any other reason why he'd be standing around in his tighty-whiteys.
     Posted By: Alex - Fri Apr 19, 2013
     Category: Accidents | Air Travel and Airlines | 1950s





Comments
Another question is why the plane had a "N" number if it was still eXperimental?
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 04/19/13 at 10:53 AM
He's even barefoot.
Posted by TheCannyScot in Atlanta, GA on 04/19/13 at 11:11 AM
To me, his getup looks more like a wrestler's or sunbather's Hindu-style thong, kind of like what those near-nude handball players wore in that video I posted a couple of weeks ago. I suspect he was re-creating nearby, in the bohemian garb of the day....
Posted by Paul on 04/19/13 at 12:03 PM
According to NTSB, the crash was in 1978:
NTSB Identification: OAK78FVW21
14 CFR Part 91 General Aviation
Aircraft: VARGA 2150A, registration: N4631V

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
FILE DATE LOCATION AIRCRAFT DATA INJURIES FLIGHT PILOT DATA
F S M/N PURPOSE
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3-2520 78/9/24 NR.LAS VEGAS,NV VARGA 2150A CR- 0 0 1 NONCOMMERCIAL COMMERCIAL, FL.INSTR.,
TIME - 0650 N4631V PX- 0 0 1 PLEASURE/PERSONAL TRANSP AGE 39, 232 TOTAL HOURS,
DAMAGE-SUBSTANTIAL OT- 0 0 0 10 IN TYPE, NOT
INSTRUMENT RATED.
DEPARTURE POINT INTENDED DESTINATION
LAS VEGAS,NV LOCAL
TYPE OF ACCIDENT PHASE OF OPERATION
ENGINE FAILURE OR MALFUNCTION IN FLIGHT: NORMAL CRUISE
NOSE OVER/DOWN LANDING: ROLL
PROBABLE CAUSE(S)
PILOT IN COMMAND - MISMANAGEMENT OF FUEL
MISCELLANEOUS ACTS,CONDITIONS - INATTENTIVE TO FUEL SUPPLY
MISCELLANEOUS ACTS,CONDITIONS - FUEL EXHAUSTION
FACTOR(S)
TERRAIN - ROUGH/UNEVEN
COMPLETE POWER LOSS - COMPLETE ENGINE FAILURE/FLAMEOUT-1 ENGINE
EMERGENCY CIRCUMSTANCES - FORCED LANDING OFF AIRPORT ON LAND
Posted by Dr.Theopolis on 04/19/13 at 12:13 PM
The printing on the photo looks reversed. I wonder if was transfer from the back of another picture.

As to why the underwear:
1) laundry day
2) had to wash gasoline off from the crash
3) was a passenger that escaped from the wreckage, but his clothes didn't
4) was working in the field and the plane crash scared the pants off him
5) what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas
Posted by Dr. Theopolis on 04/19/13 at 12:28 PM
I think the crash took place hear a circus camp. The shirt on the guy second from left looks pretty far out shiny even for 1978 and he appears barefoot also. Our subjects in question could be an acrobat and a strongman.

Yeah, that's the ticket ...
Posted by KDP on 04/19/13 at 01:37 PM
Is it a speedo of some sort? Perhaps ther is a lake or pool near by and he just ran over to rubberneck. Sad that someone died.
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 04/19/13 at 07:36 PM
As a pilot and experimental airplane builder I was intrigued by that image and did some research: at the USC site there are six photos, including one of the late James P. Martin's two sons with a model of the first version of his airplane. At http://www.aerofiles.com/_ma.html
there's an entry about a third of the way down the page with a link to a Popular Mechanics photo of the first version. (The second, with conventional wings added on, was the one that crashed). The 1978 NTSB report was on a commercially-built Varga Kachina; the FAA routinely reissues N-numbers of crashed/scrapped aircraft and the NTSB online database goes back only to 1962. As for the central mystery -- why is that guy standing there in his skivvies? ... I got nothin', sorry.
Posted by Dragonfly Builder in Iowa on 04/19/13 at 10:08 PM
1. "Here. I'll just wander across in my undies and bare feet to help the authorities with their investigation....Now if I could just find my secret decoder ring."

2 "We was po'. Dirt po'. Our family only had one set of clothes, and t'were Cletus's turn. But we was both needed, so I put on my formal briefs and joined him at the crash site."
Posted by Harvey on 04/20/13 at 12:16 AM
He was pitching in a baseball game and the batter hit a home run and blew all his clothes off. It happened to Charlie Brown all the time.

-Cougar :{)
Posted by Cougar Allen on 04/20/13 at 03:35 PM
I like that answer Cougar Allen!
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 04/20/13 at 05:26 PM
This is an example of Spirit Photography. That's the GHOST of James Martin, wondering what he's going to do with the rest of his Afterlife. No wonder nobody else seems to notice a guy standing there half-naked - they can't even see him.
Posted by tadchem on 04/22/13 at 06:44 AM
All four of these people seem a really unlikely group. It looks to me like something caused random Village People groups to form near the crash site. (Alien influence? Cue X files theme.)
Posted by EvukSoaceLordMang on 04/22/13 at 12:57 PM
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