History

In the Rearview: A speedy search and rescue, a deadly carnival ride and a fleet of aerial visitors

By Harrison Blackman
The Taos News
Posted 7/27/17

As part of our weekly series, The Taos News dug into the newspaper’s archives to uncover the top stories of the week from 10, 25 and 50 years ago. This week, we found a story about …

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History

In the Rearview: A speedy search and rescue, a deadly carnival ride and a fleet of aerial visitors

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As part of our weekly series, The Taos News dug into the newspaper’s archives to uncover the top stories of the week from 10, 25 and 50 years ago. This week, we found a story about the speedy rescue of a lost hiker, a deadly carnival accident and the arrival of a massive fleet of aircraft piloted by aviation enthusiasts.

10 years ago: ‘Lost hiker rescued,’ Aug. 2-8, 2007, By Gerald Garner Jr.

It was a cold weekend night at Taos Ski Valley. Albuquerque residents Hope and Richard Keen had traveled to the resort area for a vacation getaway. Hope Keen was waiting for her husband at the Amizette Inn, but when he did not return from a solo hike as scheduled, she called the police.

State police and volunteer search and rescue personnel rapidly mobilized. Some, like Joe Floch and Bob Powell, mounted horses and scoured the Gavilan Trail for Richard, while others – such as Rachel Hall, Randal Scott and Mark Dicampello – started hiking in search of the missing hiker.

“The search lasted just 15 minutes,” Gerald Garner Jr., who was then editor of The Taos News, wrote.

Richard Keen was found, alive and unharmed, walking on the trail while wearing a yellow jumpsuit.

“After [Richard] Keen was reunited with his wife, the couple expressed their gratitude to the rescuers and state police, saying they were amazed at the volunteers’ fast response,” Garner reported.

25 years ago: ‘Carnival thriller results in tragedy,’ July 30, 1992, By Mike Stauffer

What seemed like a harmless, fun summer carnival ride became deadly on a Friday night in 1992 when a retaining bar failed and three riders were launched from America West Carnival’s “Himalaya” ride.

Ivonne Mascareñas, 22, of Peñasco, was pronounced dead at 1 a.m. on July 25, 1992, at Holy Cross Hospital from head injuries. Teresa Corrales, 16, of Peñasco, and 20-year-old Carmen Supra, of Alamogordo, were also thrown from Himalaya, one of the rides at the carnival held in Taos in conjunction with that year’s fiestas.

The roller coaster-esque ride was of the type that spun like a centrifuge around a 65-foot track and went 12 to 15 revolutions a minute. Right before the retaining bar failure, a fourth girl from Peñasco reportedly declined to get on the ride and attempted to convince her three friends not to board it.

Police arrived at the carnival to question witnesses, shut down the event and investigate to seek evidence for possible charges of manslaughter or gross negligence.

“Two of the girls landed about 180 degrees from where the car finally stopped,” then-Taos Police Chief Neil Curran was quoted as saying. “Witnesses disagreed on what they saw, but most said the girls were drawing attention to themselves, holding their arms in the air during the ride.”

The police investigators also discovered a number of safety violations. The retaining bar of car No. 10 (the car where the young women were seated) was bent and it was easily unlatched by police personnel. In addition, the combined weight of the three young women was found to be 554 pounds, more than double the 250-pound safety limit posted on the car.

Three witnesses reportedly told Curran that the car they were riding in had retaining bars that gave way twice before 11:30 p.m. Apparently, the witnesses had tried to bring it to the operator’s attention, but he did nothing.

“The carnival packed up and left town as soon as he ordered it closed, taking its three operators with it,” Curran was quoted as saying. “And this is not the first time.”

In 1990, two carnivalgoers in Farmington suffered minor injuries when they were thrown from a car at the San Juan County Fair – an event that happened on the same ride, which was operated by the same company and management. At that time, the owners of America West did not respond to The Taos News’ request for comment.

50 years ago: ‘Flying visitors find big welcome in Taos,’ Aug. 3, 1967

“They flew in like a flock of birds last week – birds all of a feather, called Navions,” an anonymous Taos News reporter wrote.

The reporter was referring to the visit of 150 aviation enthusiasts who flew down to Taos from the Navion Society of America’s annual convention, which in 1967 was held in Pueblo, Colorado. The Navion Society was founded in California in 1960 for enthusiasts of Navion aircraft, single or twin-engine propeller planes built by North American Aviation and later Ryan Aeronautical Company. Built along the design parameters of the P-51 Mustang, one of the most famous Allied fighter planes of World War II, the Navion was intended to soar above its rivals in the postwar civil aviation market.

“The planes, out of production for several years, have as many modifications as there are owners,” The Taos News reported. “Some were more than 20 years old.”

All told, 44 private aircraft arrived at Taos’ Miller Airport; they were carrying 150 passengers. At the time, it was the largest fleet of aircraft ever assembled in Taos in a single day.

The aviators were greeted in style. The Rev. Robert Kennaugh picked up visitors in a “classy convertible” and brought them to buses, while a Model T driven by Taos resident Dick Grainger guided taxiing planes to parking spots.

The Navion Society was impressed. “The best fly-in we’ve ever had, convention or not,” the unnamed spokesman of the group stated.

At the time, the airport hoped to bring in another flying club to visit Taos, hopefully for a longer visit of two or three days.

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