Seven decades after a fatal plane crash near Bluemont, the family of the Marine Corps test pilot, Capt. Fred Charles Ochoa, are planning an unusual reunion on Saturday.
On July 27, 1945, Ochoa, 26, of Laredo, TX, was making a night flight in a new high performance twin-engine aircraft, the Grumman F7F Tigercat, from Patuxent Naval Air Station to the Naval Air Station in Anacostia, MD. The plane crashed on the Blue Ridge, approximately 5 miles southwest of Bluemont.
For 70 years, family members had believed the crash happened near Patuxent and that Ochoa lost instruments and crashed into the ground.
A curious niece, Claire Ochoa Weaver of Glen Allen, uncovered new information. She had inherited a rosary and a desk from her father. Her father told her the rosary had been in his mother’s possession since 1945; it was sent to her after having been found at the crash scene. In 2015, tucked away inside the desk, she found an old, worn envelope sent by a chaplain at Patuxent with articles about the crash. The family began contacting Loudoun and Clarke County government agencies, libraries, and the Patuxent NAS to learn more, Laura Christiansen at Leesburg’s the Thomas Balch Library provided them with an Aug. 2, 1945, Blue Ridge Herald account of the crash not seen before by family. The paper reported, “The plane was reported to be on fire when it flew over Bloomfield…and crashed into the tree tops on the mountain side of the James Kelley farm.”
Christiansen also put the family in touch with the Friends of Bluemont historical society and that lead to a contact with a J.J. Kelley who was a young boy at the time and remembered going to the scene of the crash the next day. Last summer, he met with family members at the farm and met with other neighbors who reported finding pieces of the plane for years.
Family members will return this weekend to visit the crash site and, perhaps, learn more about the crash. Fred Ochoa’s youngest and only surviving sibling, Richard Ochoa will travel from El Paso, TX, and join approximately 20 Ochoa family members from Texas, Arizona, Illinois, California, and Virginia to visit the Bluemont, Round Hill and Purcellville areas this weekend. A community gathering is planned at the American Legion Post Hall at 111 Plains Road near Middleburg from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, March 18.
Anyone with first or second-hand recollection or artifact relating to the crash and the days following, is asked to contact the family at CaptFredOchoa@gmail.com. Learn more at captfredochoa.wixsite.com/honor.