Airplane pilot William F. Buckelew was stationed at Laredo, Texas; however, at the time of his death, he was on official detail, assigned to the Special Mobile Task Force with headquarters at McAllen, Texas. This task force was engaged in a special program conducted by the Service to bring the "wetback" situation under control.
On July 23, 1954, Airplane Pilot Buckelew was assigned to serve as pilot during a flight wherein the aircraft worked in conjunction with ground units checking laborers on farms in the vicinity of Rio Grande City, Texas. Patrol Inspector Donald Kee was on the flight as an observer.
The joint operation had resulted in ten aliens being taken into custody by the ground teams. The patrol aircraft had just made a low pass over a cotton field near the Rio Grande River and was banking to return to the field when it was seen to spin and plunge into the river. The plane burst into flames which hampered rescue operations by officers and bystanders in the area. Several persons were hospitalized suffering from burns sustained in the rescue efforts. The crash occurred about 4:00 p.m., approximately two miles downstream from the Rio Grande City Bridge. Pilot Buckelew was still alive when he was removed from the plane but died 45 minutes later at the hospital.