On the afternoon of March 21st, 1987, Captain Dean Paul Martin, 35, took off in his F4-C Phantom jet on a routine exercise for the California Air National Guard, scheduled to fly over the snow-covered, cloud-heavy San Bernardino Mountains. Also aboard the aircraft was his weapons officer, Captain Ramon Ortiz, 39. Their aircraft was the middle jet of three Phantoms. Within minutes he and his weapons officer perished after slamming into a mountain at 400 mph.
"RIVERSIDE - Capt. Dean Paul Martin, killed in the March 21 crash of his jet fighter, apparently failed to hear a controller's frantic orders to alter course moments before slamming into a mountainside, authorities said Thursday.
Martin, 35-year old son of entertainer Dean Martin, and his co-pilot, Capt. Ramon Ortiz, 39, died instantly when their Air National Guard F-4C Phantom crashed into the side of a peak near Mt. San Gorgonio, 90 miles east of Los Angeles, during a training mission.
An investigation by the Air National Guard and the Air Force indicated that Martin may have become disoriented or experienced vertigo in a fierce snowstorm and did not hear the command from a controller at Ontario Airport to change directions to avoid the peak, said Master Sgt. William Nicoletti, an Air National Guard spokesman.
The report, released by the Air Force Safety and Inspection Center at Norton Air Force Base, said Martin went into a steep dive just after he discovered that he was heading into a blinding storm.
Information released earlier in the investigation indicated the aircraft had not malfunctioned and that the two men had made no effort to eject before the crash.
According to a transcript of tower communications, the unidentified Ontario controller frantically tried to find alternative courses for Martin and the pilots of two other fighter planes flying in formation to help them avoid the worsening weather conditions.
Two minutes before the crash, the group's leader asked to take the three planes above the 12,000-foot level and out of the storm, but he was refused because of heavy commerical traffic in the area."