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ABE-3 Jim Gardner
“I was going over your site where I saw your video on the F-4 ramp strike. I was sitting in the “hell hole” where we kept the barricade ramps where I was not supposed to be. At the time I was wire checker/hook runner. I watched him as he turned final and it seemed he was having problems staying lined up and he was chasing the glide slope as he would “drop below the fantail” out of my view then come back up into view. As I remember the deck was also pitching more than usual so I attributed some of what I was seeing to that until he was long in the groove and he disappeared again, as I began to stand up I saw the reflection of his burners on the water so I took a dive to the cat walk. I looked up as he hit the ramp, ducked down but still watching I saw the burning fuel washing across the deck and saw both ejections. The next thing I remember is collapsing the pilot or RIOs chute as it came by me on its way to the fantail. I almost wasted his harness as I really did not know how to get him out of it except with my barricade removal tool (buck knife). Lt. Koblitz, our A/G officer got to him at that point, stopped me from cutting the harness and flipped the release.
I learned a lot in those few seconds. I did not hear the impact, I did not hear the explosion(s) in fact, I did not hear anything until you or the air boss was calling “Fire on the Flight Deck” and I think I remember “Man Overboard”. It was a very surreal moment of time. When I walked back across to A/G deck edge I looked over at the stack of barricade ramps where I had been sitting only to see the tail hook of that F-4. From that point on I embraced a few more rules such as I never pulled my jersey sleeves up and I never sat in the hell hole! I did go see the big dent in the bulkhead of the safety office where the tail hook hit.”