Born To Fly. Died A Hero.

Che Barnes
Lieutenant Commander – U.S. Coast Guard

Che Jeremy Barnes was born January 27, 1974 and raised on this farm.  Growing up he was fascinated with planes and flying. He spent his childhood flying remote controlled airplanes and during High School earned his own money to pay for pilot lessons, soloing on his 16th birthday.  After graduating from Esparto High School in 1992 he entered the US Coast Guard Academy, graduated with a mechanical engineering degree and served for 7 years as a Coast Guard officer at sea before earning his wings at military flight school. Che’s career with the Coast Guard was spent flying the HU-25A Falcon jets from Puerto Rico, the H-65 Dolphin helicopters from San Francisco and the C-130 Hercules aircraft from Sacramento.

Che spent much of his free time flying, or working on, his bi-wing Pitts S1-T in preparation for performing in aerobatic competitions throughout California. Che was happiest when he was home on the farm with his family and with his friend Carrie. Che was always asking questions and searching for the truth— trying to find his best role as a contributor to society.

On October 29th, 2009, Che and his crew of six were dispatched from Sacramento in the C-130 Coast Guard 1705 (CG1705) on a search and rescue mission to look for a missing boater off of the coast of San Diego. The ordered search area overlapped with the military training area W291, east of San Clemente Island. Unknown to Che and the crew of CG1705, a flight of four Marine helicopters were on a night training mission, flying with night vision goggles in a formation of four – two transport helicopters in front and two attack helicopters in back. These aircraft were being monitored by Beaver, the Navy control tower that monitors all military training activity in W291.

Beaver failed to inform CG1705 or the Marine helicopters that the two flights were on a collision course (CG1705 and the Marine helicopters had no way of communicating with each-other). At 7:09 pm, after dark, Che’s C-130, CG1705, was struck by the third helicopter in the pattern. Moments before the collision Che’s co-pilot voiced the passing of traffic below CG1705 – these were the two leading Marine helicopters in the pattern of four. The last phrase spoken by Che was the clam, but serious order to his co-pilot: “Climb up dude.” Immediately following this phrase the third helicopter in the pattern, a dimly lit Marine Crops AH-1 Cobra helicopter,  collided into the left side of CG1705. They never knew what hit them.

Nine Young people lost their lives. Che, his crew and the crew of the Marine helicopter still rest at that location in the Pacific Ocean (N 32-59.0 by W 118-07.5).

We love you Che. We miss you Che.



By: Thaddeus Barsotti