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Pilot Weldon Smith | United States Department of Justice - Immigration and Naturalization Service - United States Border Patrol, U.S. Government United States Department of Justice - Immigration and Naturalization Service - United States Border Patrol, U.S. Government

Pilot

Weldon Smith

United States Department of Justice - Immigration and Naturalization Service - United States Border Patrol, U.S. Government

End of Watch: Friday, October 19, 1979

Bio & Incident Details

Age: 40

Tour: 8 years, 11 months

Badge # Not available

Cause: Aircraft accident

Location: Texas

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Pilot Smith had been working with ground agents Roxy D. Kieffe and Frank Ureta, Jr., of Rio Grande City Border Patrol Station. They were trailing aliens on the Gallagor Ranch, about 10 miles north of Guerra, Jim Hogg County, Texas. Pilot Smith returned to McAllen to refuel. As he was returning to the location of the aliens, he passed about 100 feet over Kieffe, relocated the trail, and started relaying the location to Kieffe. He said, "I found the tr-" and quit transmitting in mid-sentence. Officer Kieffe did not see the crash, but saw the smoke and ran toward it. The plane was completely engulfed in flames, destroyed by the impact and fire. Pilot Smith died on initial impact. A Justice of the Peace from Hebbronville, Texas, held an inquest upon arrival at the scene of the accident and pronounced Pilot Smith dead. Subsequent investigation determined that the aircraft had stalled and the pilot was unable to recover from the stall.

Smith was buried in Valley Memorial Gardens in McAllen, Hidalgo County, Texas. Smith joined the US Border Patrol on November 2, 1970 and served one month short of nine years.

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I met Weldon in September of 1975, when I started working for Air Central in Harlingen. Weldon was working on an instrument rating and I was one of the instructors that flew with him. I was fresh out of the US Army and a new instructor, and I always thought the Chief Pilot would schedule me with Weldon when he could because Weldon was very good applying what was taught plus he was just a "hoot" to fly with. In those few months of flying together he taught me a lot of discipline that carried me though my career in a cockpit; he taught me how to respect others and he taught me that laughter IS the best medicine.

In 1976, I left Harlingen as I started moving along the stepping stones that build a career in aviation and never saw Weldon again. It was probably 10 years after his accident that I heard about it when I crossed paths with another aviator that had also started his career in the Valley. Even though I hadn't seen Weldon in all that time, I was heartbroken for his loss as he had always been there in my mind from the time that I met him. I was heartbroken for his family as well as I actually had met his wife and son. I'm not sure of the details of the meet anymore because of how long ago it was but I know I ended up at his house with him. With Weldon, I can only image what caused the two of us to be at his home given that I was just a flight instructor but this is part of the memory that I have of him; he was always spontaneous and fun to be with. To this day, I remember a very nice looking women and wondering what on earth she was doing with Weldon. The fact that his wife was not upset with us just dropping in and all the laughter that was taking place is a part of me that has never gone away. I also remember his son, a toddler in diapers, and now see that his dad must have been instrumental in Jason's choice of career.

I've been retired from Southwest Airlines for a year now and was reflecting on that event and thinking of the individuals that had influenced me the most and Google lead me to his memorial. I felt I had to share my reflection on Weldon so that you know that he influenced me and I'm sure many others even if the relationship was brief. JoAnn and Jason, know that you too as well have been held in thought and prayer by a stranger for these many years. I also now know that Sherri and another child was a part of Weldon and I'm sorry for your loss of your father.

Capt Michael Reamy (Ret)
Friend ~ Southwest Airlines
October 21, 2015

 

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