Local

Flight 708: Seeking a treasure from the past

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Amidst the snowy cliffs and majestic mountains, a crash site more than 40 years old is buried atop Mt. Whitney.

The unforgiving mountain is where life ended for Patrick Dalbec's parents during a flight home from a Nevada casino in 1969.

An hour after the plane lost contact with the control tower it crashed, slid down a cliff and burned.

"I think I was told my dad was about 28 and my mom was right around 26 or 27." Dalbec said.

Dalbec would call his uncle and aunt his mom and dad. They raised him from the time he was one, when his parents died.

"I've heard numerous stories along the way about my mom and dad and how great they were and how much one says I look more like my mom and more says I look more like my dad. To me I look more like my dad," he said.

He relies on a few pictures and family stories to learn more about the parents he never knew, but the most up-close and personal look at the wreckage has been through the eyes of a sierra hiking expert.

Taylor Eslick first made the intense daylong hike to the remote site last year and documented what remains.

"Taylor says the air is very thick up there, but it's very quiet. He says it's almost spooky its so quiet up there when he goes up there. But it's surreal he said it's a burial site basically, I mean where these victims died," Dalbec said.

Dalbec has hundreds of pictures, and exclusive video shot by Eslick of the site, that few have seen.

Even large pieces of the plane are still intact, frozen in time on an icy mountain so far away.

"It's amazing I guess because how far up it is. I mean it looked like it just happened recently. I mean some of the stuff, it was amazing," Dalbec said.

But buried deep in the snow and ice and wreckage is one thing that already tied pat to his father that he desperately wants to see and touch with his own hands: his father's badge.

That memento is especially important to Dalbec because his father was a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy. Dalbec would eventually carry on the law enforcement family tradition by becoming a Fresno Police Officer."

"At first I didn't know if deputies carried their badges off duty back then. I did just find out recently from my uncle they did," he said.

At some point in his lifetime, Dalbec would love to visit the crash site for himself, but the rough terrain and location make that unlikely.

But Dalbec does have several small pieces of the plane and a seatbelt that he asked Eslick to retrieve for him.

It's the closest thing he has to his parents, until he finds the small treasure that means so much.

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