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Douglas C. Shute

Entered on Duty: 
1949-01-24
End of Watch: 
1956-06-06

During the morning hours of June 6, 1956, Airplane Pilot Douglas C. Shute was patrolling in Service aircraft N4375A, a Piper Supercub. He was working with a ground unit about 35 miles north-northwest of Comstock, Texas, engaged in "sign-cutting", a term applied to locating and following footprints or other physical evidence left by a person in traversing an area. First contact was made with the ground unit at 7:00 a.m. when Pilot Shute landed the plane on a roadway and conferred with Patrol Inspectors James M. Carter, Emmit R. Brotherton, and Carter M. Newsome. The ground crew had located the tracks of two persons which could more readily be checked out by officers in the aircraft. Patrol Inspector James M. Carter decided to serve as observer in the aircraft while the other officers continued to follow the tracks on the ground.

At about 10:00 a.m. the plane returned. Pilot Shute informed the officers by radio that the walkers had been located and had been instructed to come out of the brush to a roadway where they could be picked up by the ground crew. The plane was observed making a turn to the left and then resuming level flight at about 100 feet altitude. Shortly thereafter, the plane went into a steep climb and continued through the first one hundred or more degrees of an inside loop. The plane reached a height estimated to be 450 feet during this maneuver when it reached a stall and began a left spin from which there was no recovery. It struck the ground in vertical descent, the engine still operating at near cruising power. The wreckage was contained in a circle no larger than the wingspan. The engine was driven back into the cockpit, the force of the impact telescoping the cabin, imprisoning Pilot Shute and Patrol Inspector Carter. Both were killed in the impact.