The following was copied from Anthony Mireles book "Fatal Army Air Forces Aviation Accidents in the United States, 1941-1945"
8/1/44 , California
At 0815 PWT, a Consolidated B-24D and a B-24J collided in mid-air and crashed in California, killing 17 fliers aboard both airplanes. Top turret gunnery student Pvt. Newton J. Steven was hurled from B-24J #42-78522 as it broke apart and he was able to parachute to safety, receiving only minor injuries. The airplanes were part of a flight of six B-24s that had taken off from the Army Air Field at Muroc, California, on a gunnery and formation training mission. The formation, consisting of two, three-ship elements in V-flights, had assembled at 9,000 feet indicated altitude over the AAF Bombing Range near Muroc. The formation then climbed to altitude in preparation for the gunnery exercise over Muroc. The formation flew to the northeast for a short time and then to the east, making a 180-degree left turn. The formation was beginning to level out of the turn and was flying west at 20,000 feet when the collision occurred. Other pilots in the formation reported that during the flight they had observed B-24J #42-78522, which was the lead airplane of the second element, flying too close vertically to the first element. Several minutes before the collision, B-24D #42-72862, flying in the number-two position of the first element, had reported to the flight leader that it was suffering a problem with the number-three turbo-supercharger. Other pilots in the flight stated that the B-24D had trouble holding formation, lagging slightly behind the lead element for much of the flight. Apparently trying to leave the formation or perhaps continuing in the turn that the formation had completed the pilot of the B-24D was seen executing a gentle turn to the left, causing the pilot of the B-24J, who was flying a tight formation on the first element, to attempt the same gentle left turn in an attempt to parallel the course of the B-24D and avoid a collision. The B-24D apparently became caught in the propeller turbulence of the leading airplanes, causing it’s port wing to dip further down in the turn. Unable to follow the maneuver and anticipating the collision, the pilot of the B-24J attempted a banking maneuver to the right as the B-24D continued to bank to the left and into the path of his airplane. The B-24J was attempting to roll to the right and under the B-24D but the number-one engine and propeller collided with the B-24D fuselage from underneath near the waist windows severing the tail of the B-24D and sending it plummeting to earth where it exploded into flames upon impact. B-24s flying in the second element had to maneuver to avoid striking flaming debris and the severed tail section of the B-24D that were hurtling through the formation. The B-24J appeared to "hover" in mid-air momentarily as the two port engines and pieces of the flight deck and fuselage peeled away before the bomber spun to earth and exploded into flames. Pvt. Steven was thrown clear at this time. The wreckage of B-24J #42-78522 was scattered over two square miles and B-24D #42-72862 slammed to earth on the salt marsh. Investigation revealed that this was the first high-altitude formation flight for all four of the pilots killed in the collision. Investigators recommended that all crewmembers wear their parachute harness at all times while airborne and that crew wear their parachutes in flight whenever possible. Killed in the crash of B-24J #42-78522 were: 2Lt. Ernest J. Chapman, pilot; 2Lt. William Johansen, co-pilot; F/0 Eugene E. Hechtman, navigator; F/O John H. Tilson bombardier; Cpl. Arlington S. Leininger, engineer; Cpl. Richard A. Lira, radio operator; Cpl. Louis C. Bartlett, gunner, Pfc. Ted W Srigley, gunner; Pfc. Donald C. Becker, gunner. Killed in the crash of B-24D #42-72862 were: 2Lt. Sam B. Johnson, pilot; 2Lt. Rex Phillips, co-pilot; Cpl. Edgar A. Peloquin, engineer; Pfc. Robert "1'. Thomas, engineer; Cpl. Kenneth D. Towns, radio operator; Cpl. Carroll B. Ball, gunner; Pfc. Ellis B. Crowley, gunner; Pfc. Donald F. Hickok, gunner.