The Nevada Fireball
Written By: Scott Holloway
On April 18, 1962, an unidentified flying object , most commonly referred to
by witnesses as a “fireball” or a “meteor”, crashed in Nevada after a near cross country
flight. The event received coverage in newspapers, was documented by Project Blue
Book, and the object was tracked on radar by the Air Force to a specific area in Nevada,
before it vanished from the radar screen, in the same area noted by witnesses in Las Vegas,
just before an apparent explosion, followed by a “column of brilliant smoke.” Witnesses
in Utah and Nevada compared the explosion to a nuclear detonation. Spokesmen from
Nellis Air Force Base confirmed that jets were scrambled from Phoenix, Arizona, by the
Air Defense Command.
And yet, the odds are that you have never heard of this incident, and if so, but
vaguely. Frank Edwards covered the incident for the August, 1962 issue of FATE magazine.
He revealed no new information, but did revive the case after most of the country had
presumably forgotten about it. Edwards also devoted a brief chapter from his 1964 book,
Strange World, to the Nevada crash.
Beginning in 1989, researcher Kevin Randle, in various books, progressively
documented the case, culminating in A History of UFO Crashes. Randle interviewed
witnesses, searched Blue Book documents and newspaper articles, and provided by far
the most complete picture of the events of April 18, 1962. Randle concluded that the
object which crashed that night was an extraterrestrial craft.
It was Randle’s research which inspired me to begin my own inquiry into the case,
as well as my proximity to the original event. I moved to Nevada in 2002, and began my
investigation in May, 2008. I recalled that Edwards and Randle had not determined a
precise crash site for the object, the true heart of the matter for me.
The April 19, 1962 edition of the Las Vegas Sun,, stated that the object was tracked
by radar to the Mesquite area. Mesquite is approximately 75 miles from Las Vegas, where
I live. I placed an ad in a Mesquite newpaper in search of witnesses, but received no
substantial reply. Consulting a map, I noticed that Bunkerville, Nevada, is directly
adjacent to Mesquite. Despite Bunkerville’s approximate population of 1,000, I was
surprised to find a listing for a branch of the Clark County Library system there. I called
the librarian, and was given the name of a prominent local historian. I called him
immediately. When I explained the purpose of my research, he related to me the following
Several years ago, two brothers, residents of Bunkerville, were working at the Key
West mining claim southwest of town, near sunset, when they suddenly noticed an
extremely bright, white object pass directly overhead. The object continued in a straight
path for about five miles, before it crashed into the side of a mountain. The brothers
intended to find the crash site, but for some reason, never did. They were unable to
determine the exact nature of the object.
This was the story related to him by the two brothers. Unfortunately, the two
witnesses were deceased. I received the names of their surviving children, and
contacted them as soon as possible. From them, I received slightly different
versions of the incident. The daughter of one witness agreed that the brothers
had never made it to the actual impact site. However, the two sons of the other
witness told me that the brothers did in fact reach the site-they had come within
100 yards of an “object.” Later, their father brought them to the site, which was
now obscured by overgrowth.
One of them was adamant that the object was a meteorite, and he refused to
divulge the location of the site, until he was able to recover the meteorite for
himself. His brother was unable to take me there due to his physical condition.
He told me later that his brother was upset with him for speaking to me about
The historian in Bunkerville had been told that the object crashed near a mining
claim familiar to both witnesses. After searching through several mining
documents, and speaking to other residents in the area, I was able to gain a rough
idea of the mine’s location. On my second trip into the area, I found the mine, but
no evidence of an impact site. However, the terrain is vastly uneven, forested,
covered with overgrowth and the remains of rockslides, and, on my last visit,
by a thick carpet of snow. There is much ground left to cover, and my search for
the crash site is ongoing.
To better understand the perception of this case, it is necessary to examine the
original media coverage of the incident. The object was first sighted over New York
state, and last sighted near Mesquite, Nevada. Oddly enough, though, only the
Las Vegas Sun, of April 19, 1962, contains any mention of the sighting over
Las Vegas, and the explosion near Mesquite. The April 19 edition of the Nevada
State Journal mentions a sighting over Reno, Nevada, but not the Las Vegas
sighting, and not the explosion near Mesquite. Other newspapers from April 19
include references to an explosion over Utah, nothing about sightings in Nevada.
Several wire service articles quoted Robert Kadesch, an associate professor of
physics at the University of Utah, who had not witnessed the object, as expressing
the opinion that the object was a bolide, or an exploding meteor. The official Air
Force explanation, issued on April 19, declared the object to be a meteor that came
down in Utah.
There were reports from Stead Air Force Base in Reno of an object landing
near a power plant in Eureka, Utah, which rendered the plant inoperable for 40
minutes. Accounts from many newspapers, but not the Las Vegas Sun, indicated
explosion in Utah, and nothing further. The Utah papers quoted witnesses by
name. Anyone without access to the Las Vegas Sun edition of April 19 was
led to believe that a meteor, exploding or possibly crashing in Utah, was the
most likely explanation, especially since Kadesch’s comment was widely
But the Las Vegas Sun article paints quite a different picture. It mentions
the previous sightings, including the alleged landing in Utah, but also the
sightings over Reno, Las Vegas, and the final explosion near Mesquite. This
was not a wire service report, as most accounts were. It is not made clear from
the reports outside Nevada if the explosion in Utah was actually the explosion
from Nevada. Bunkerville is approximately 10 miles from the Arizona state
line. The explosion was seen in Reno, so the possibility that it was also seen
in parts of Utah is not farfetched. The majority of the country, not aware of the
Nevada sightings, but of the Utah sightings, and Kadesch’s uninformed opinion,
was left with only the meteor explanation. This, coupled with the official Air
Force explanation of April 19th, effectively killed the story. Even the Las Vegas
Sun, on April 20th, printed this explanation.
After the publication of the Fate article, the case lay dormant until 1964,
when Frank Edwards resurrected it in Strange World. To further confuse the
issue, Edwards now listed the crash site as “south of Reno,” on the opposite
side of the state from Bunkerville! Whatever the reason for the slip-up, it only
helped to bury the incident deeper, since there was no record anywhere else
of a crash “south of Reno.”
Going back to Randle’s research, I decided to contact surviving witnesses in
Utah. Randle had uncovered valuable information, such as the fact that the
object changed speed, shorted out the engine of a vehicle, and even landed near
Eureka, Utah, before taking off again. Though some witnesses were unavailable
or deceased, one, Betty Robinson, related some new information to me. Betty’s
late husband, Bob, had witnessed the object as it flew over his truck, stalling
his engine, before continuing on it’s path. She was at home, bathing her children,
when she heard a loud noise, and the house was filled with a bright light. Out-
side, she witnessed a bright light, and the noise seemed as if it would burst her
eardrums. The streetlights were all out.
“It’s something that I’ll take to my grave,” she told me.
When her husband came home, he was “white as a sheet.” He told her, “You
won’t believe what we saw.”
Betty also revealed that, in the wake of the passing light source, she noticed
an electrical smell, like something burning. She also said that a short time after
the incident, a producer from a television show came to Eureka, for a potential
episode devoted to the incident, though nothing ever came of it. Betty could
not recall the name of the program.
Her contention that the local media reported the object as crashing into
the Pacific Ocean puzzled me, until I read the front page article from the
Salt Lake Tribune of April 19, entitled “Flash Splits Area’s Sky.” In the
article, this passage appears, in parentheses-(And early Thursday, Associated
Press added a report of a “flash” in the skies over Ocean Beach, California,
Wednesday about 8:55 p.m, PST (9:55 p.m. MST.) The California fireball
“seemed to move west over the Pacific toward a spot some 30 miles off
San Francisco”, the report said.)
The time of this sighting is well after the last known sighting in Nevada,
at approximately 7:32 PST. To date, I have found no other corroboration of
the California sighting.
The Project Blue Book file on this case contains this letter from Mrs.
Pebble Cox of Boise, Idaho, addressed to J. Allen Hynek, dated May 11, 1962:
I understand you are interested in the meteorite which fell in Utah on the
night of April 18. My husband, 3 sons and I left Salt Lake City, Utah Wednesday
evening April 18 at about 5:30 p.m. traveling east on hiway 50. We traveled
at 45 or 50 miles per hour and you can probably judge about where it fell from
from tracing our route. The meteorite came down right by the side of hiway
(not on driver’s side)about 50 feet from road bed, about 100 miles out of Salt
Lake City. It was quite low as my husband just looked out the pickup window
(a son was driving)and didn’t have to look up to see it pass by. If this will be
of any help to you in locating it I sure hope so.
We were on a trip to Missouri at the time after visiting our daughter and
family in Salt Lake City, and have just returned to Boise, Idaho recently.
The signifigance of this account, if true, is plain: it demolishes the Kadesch
theory of the object as a “bolide”, that “probably exploded 50 to 60 miles in
the atmosphere”, and raises the question of why a “meteor” landing 50 feet
from a main highway was never reported as found, unless the “meteor”
again took flight soon after it touched down.
Also important is that the “meteor” was visible in Mr. Cox’s direct line of
sight, as he “didn’t have to look up to see it pass by”, and that it is not described
as a violent impact, but simply “came down”, as if in a controlled descent. It
is unclear why the Cox family did not investigate the landing of the object.
My attempts to locate Pebble Cox have so far been unsuccessful.
There is no indication that Hynek replied to this letter, or made any attempt
to follow up on it. Perhaps this is because he, along with the Director of
Project Blue Book, Robert Friend, had already visited Utah on May 8, 1962,
in what amounted to a one day “field investigation”, during which they
predictably found nothing. Hynek did not visit Nevada. While there are news-
paper clippings in the Blue Book file, none are from Nevada. There is only a
Project Record Card which, as Kevin Randle has pointed out, logged the incident
in Zulu time,a difference of eight hours!
In 1962, responsibility for recovery of downed space objects rested with the
1127th USAF Field Activities Group. One example of this unit’s deployment
is documented in a Blue Book file dated September 28, 1960, for an incident
near Sheppard AFB in Texas. A Joint Message Form states, “On 28 Sep 60, an
UFO was rptd to have fallen in the vicinity of Sheppard AFB, Tex. It is requested
that the 1127th investigate this sighting.” The document is addressed to “1127
USAF FLD ACTY GP, FT. BELVOIR VA.”
Another document in the file states, “Moon Dust sighted by lcl(local) police
to have landed in fld ten miles ssw Sheppard AFB, Texas at 28/1025Z. Search
will begin at daybreak.” Documentation from 1967, in a group history of the
1127th for the last half of that year, confirms the function of the unit at that time.
My requests for documentation for this unit’s group history in 1962 have so far
been denied, but are ongoing.
In a book authored by Berthold Schwarz, “UFO Dynamics,” there is a
possible corroboration of the Nevada crash, given by an anonymous military
witness. Beginning on page 532, the witness describes a craft recovered from
Nevada after a “horrendous explosion”, which was “brought back” to a base
in Arizona, where the witness was allowed to view it, and provide a detailed
description of it’s interior.
I contacted Schwarz to ask about the availability of this witness, but was told
that he will not discuss the matter with me, though he did indicate that there
is something worth looking into. I have recently addressed a letter directly to
the witness, through Schwarz. There has been no response from the witness to
date. Schwarz has described the witness as a “war hero”, who served with the
Air Force Office of Special Investigations. In “UFO Dynamics,” he also
describes a UFO related incident in Vietnam which he personally investigated.
There have been various suggestions by Schwarz to this witness about contact-
ing me, and I am grateful for his efforts. He has made every effort to assist my
investigation, and provided needed encouragement along the way.
The long rumored Project Redlight, allegedly an Air Force program
established to analyze and exploit recovered space vehicles, also figures
into the story of the Nevada crash. In 1980, a man named Mike Hunt, in
a letter to researcher David Dobbs, related that, from 1961-63, he served
in the capacity of radio maintenance at the Nevada Test Site, specifically
at the section known as Area 51. Hunt wrote that he witnessed a “UFO”
on the ground that was “20-30 feet in diameter and sort of a pewter
color”. (Schwarz’ military witness described the craft which he witnessed
as “almost 20 feet across.”)
Hunt further claimed that he saw crates marked “Project Redlight”,
and “Edwards AFB.” Several times when he was working on radios at
Area 51, “they just died.” Later that year, in 1962, Hunt recalled reading
an article in Reader’s Digest about a UFO which exploded in Nevada after
a cross country flight. Shortly after the date given in the article for the crash,
Hunt said, “everything came to a screeching halt at Area 51.” Hunt concluded,
“I am satisfied that the UFO of the Digest article and the UFO of Project
Red Light are/were one and the same.”
As reported in William Steinman’s UFO Crash At Aztec, Wendelle Stevens
heard rumors in Las Vegas in 1980 of the crash of a UFO, piloted by humans,
at Area 51, in which both pilots were killed. After the crash, the project to
test recovered crafts was abruptly halted.
Regarding Hunt’s mention of a Reader’s Digest article about the crash, I
searched every issue of that magazine for 1962 and 1963. There is no article
about the incident in any of these issues. I believe Hunt was actually referring to
the Fate article from August, 1962. To the best of my knowledge, this is the
only magazine article from 1962 which mentions the incident.
There are other newspaper accounts which add puzzling dimensions to this
case. On April 19, 1962, the Pasadena, California, Star-News, in a page one
article, asked, “Anyone Else See a Meteor Hit the Moon?” The article quoted
Brent Myers, 9, of San Marino: “It was a white light with blue flashes. It hit the
lower left part of the moon. It had a light tail.” The article elaborated that Myers
reported his sighting to the Mt. Wilson Observatory, “which had failed to note
the phenomenon.” The time given for the sighting was 8:10 PST, after the
last known documented sighting of the object in Nevada.
The Salt Lake Tribune, April 21, 1962, on page 34, featured the headline,
“Rock ’Growing’ In Lawn a Product of Meteor?” A “porous” rock , five inches
in diameter, was discovered embedded in the lawn of the Pollock family of
Midvale, Utah, on April 19. Jack Pollock “said the rock appeared to have been
driven into the lawn with great force and from a southwesterly direction.”
Randy Pollock, age 10, is pictured holding the rock, which was described as “red
in color, and has the appearance of having gone through extreme heat.” The article
further states that,”a friend of the Pollock family will take the rock to Utah State
University Saturday to let scientists there examine it...” Whatever the results of
this analysis were, is unknown, but the proximity of this “rock” to the sightings in
Utah of the object is intriguing.
A report from the Charleston Daily Mail, April 19, 1962, features an account
by Mel Paisley, a foreman for the McLean Trucking Company. McLean witnessed
the “tail” of a bright object which left a “blue-white trail 50 times as broad as
that of a falling star”, that was visible for about three seconds. And yet Paisley
witnessed this “tail” on April 19, between 4:30 and 4:45 a.m. The article was
from the evening edition of the paper, one day after the crash.
Another fireball was reported on April 23, 1962, in the Ogden Standard-
Examiner. Harry Koepke, a night watchman, described it as “whiter than the
strongest light,” a description also used for the object which crashed in Nevada.
While it is entirely possible that this fireball was part of the Lyrid meteor
shower, known to occur from April 19-22, the articles notes that,”although the
watchman has seen numerous shooting stars, this is the first time he has ever
seen anything as large or brilliant as the object he observed.”
Again on April 20, a fireball was seen near Torrington, Montana, which pro-
duced a “red flash and explosion.” The Albuquerque Journal, April 6, 1962,
contains another report of a fireball coming to ground in New Mexico, and
points out that “meteorites falling on federal property belong to the Smith-
sonian Institution.” The fireball was investigated by Dr. Lincoln LaPaz, director
of the University of New Mexico Institute of Meteoritics, a man with extensive
previous experience in this area, including field research into the “green fireballs”
prevalent in New Mexico in 1949-50. LaPaz had gone on record as stating that
the green fireballs were not meteors.
The connection of these various sightings is unclear, but indicates the presence
of perhaps other unknown objects traveling through the same states as the object
which crashed in Nevada. These objects were seen for a shorter duration, and
in a far more limited area, making detailed analysis impossible. However, they
demonstrate a pattern for the month of April, and a similarity to the object seen
on April 18. Only this object is known to have been tracked by radar by the Air
Force. As stated by a spokesman for Nellis AFB, “A meteor cannot be tracked
on radar. And this object was.” This clearly contradicts the official Air Force
explanation of April 19, as does testimony which indicates that the object
changed direction, changed speed, caused power outages, and was pursued by
Air Force jets.
It is highly improbable that there has ever been a “meteor” which can be
accurately described in these terms. And yet, there are any number of reliably
reported UFO sightings which fulfill these criteria.
That said, this incident is far from resolved. My research is ongoing. I have
withheld names of witnesses for the present for this reason. Some who might have
been directly involved are now deceased, including:
Oscar Abbott, the Deputy Sheriff for Bunkerville and Mesquite in 1962.
Abbott served in this position because the two towns did not have their
own police department. He was assigned by the Las Vegas Police Department.
Robert Stenovich, Superintendent of the Nevada Highway Patrol in 1962.
I spoke to Stenovich’s widow, who cannot recall any involvement of his in
the incident. Given the isolated area in which the crash occurred, it is quite
plausible that the NHP had at least some peripheral participation.
Hank Greenspun, Publisher of the Las Vegas Sun, the only newspaper to
present a somewhat complete picture of the incident, including the crash
of the object in Nevada. I contacted Greenspun’s widow and surviving
children, who claim no knowledge of the incident.
Another witness at the Key West Mine, name unknown, likely deceased.
Bob Robinson, from Utah, who saw the object pass over his truck.
The two brothers from Bunkerville, who may have seen the object on the
ground after it crashed, and one of whom showed the exact location
to his two sons, who refuse at this point to divulge it to me. The brothers
were familiar with the mining claim nearby, and one even owned a claim
in 1972 in the same general area. One of their sons also worked at the
mine near the crash site years later.
Then there is the story of George Huntsman, 80, of Bunkerville. Hunstman told me that
he witnessed a “fireball” several years ago while on his back porch in Bunkerville. He said
that this fireball appeared about dusk, coming from the east, and moved away from Bunker-
ville. He was unsure of the exact year, but said that 1962 “sounds about right.” If this was
the same object which later crashed, it was appearing here at an earlier time, moving in a
different direction, and also in a straight line. Huntsman reported a loud boom after the
object passed by, after which it “disappeared into some clouds”, to the west. He described the
color as “bright red”, one color used to describe the object which crashed near Bunkerville.
Huntsman does not recall a later crash of a fireball near town. The fireball was sighted from
approximately 1/2 mile away, and appeared from that distance to be “five to six feet
in diameter.” It was also traveling below the mesa when he spotted it, making it unlikely
the object was meteor.
There is no definite corroboration with the crashed object here, but the odds of two
such anomalous objects appearing near Bunkerville in perhaps the same year seems
remote. The further similarity of the two sightings is also intriguing, such as color, sound,
altitude, and time of day.
A man named Cliven Bundy told me of a “blue-gold” object, with a “white tail”,
pass over his father’s truck as the two were driving to St. George, Utah. The object was
moving from east to northwest, similar to the direction reported by witnesses in Utah.
Bundy’s family has driven cattle through the canyon where the object is said to have
crashed for several generations, and lived about ten miles from the mine near the alleged
crash site in 1962. He was uncertain of the exact year of his sighting, but believes it
was in that approximate time frame. He also said that the object was travelling horizontally
when he saw it, another characteristic of the crashed object.
These sightings are indicative of a pattern if they occurred on the same day, but of
course are hard to confirm as to the exact date. There are undeniable similarities in
appearance and behavior when all sightings are correlated, including corroboration
through military documents and various media reports.
The object, according to a Project Record Card in the Blue Book file, was first
sighted over Cuba. Later reports indicate a sighting over Oneida, New York, then in
various states, including Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada. It was seen
closest by witnesses in Utah, where it flew low over Bob Robinson’s truck, temporarily
shorted out his engine, and was seen to have possibly land near Highway 50, pass over
Eureka, Utah, tripping the photoelectric cells in the street lights with it’s brightness,
and possibly landed near town. One witness claims the object descended, then took
off again, moving west. It was later seen over Reno, Nevada, and also over Las Vegas,
Nevada, where witnesses reported it last moving horizontally northeast, in the direction
of Mesquite, Nevada, before a blinding flash was seen, followed by a column of “brilliant
smoke”, about 7:35 p.m., PST, according to an Air Force document in the Blue Book file.
To date, I have received no documentation through FOIA requests, other than Blue
Book records, which confirm the reality of this incident. Though documentation of
the 1127th USAF Field Activity Group is available for other years, I am unable to locate
records for this unit from 1962. The U.S. Navy has not yet resolved my FOIA request
made on March 3, 2009. No clear answer for this has been forthcoming. Other requests
I would welcome any new information from any source. The picture is far from
complete, but I believe the pieces are there. My primary need is for witnesses to step
forward. Confidentiality will be respected. I have revealed names here with permission.
Only the raw data matters, and a secret kept for forty eight years.
Email Scott Holloway