Joel Campbell of the Salt Lake Tribune brings us a story of one woman who found closure following her grandparents’ mysterious deaths thanks to the Freedom of Information Act.
Leslie Randle never trusted the succinct sequence of events provided by military officials that led to the death of her grandparents, Hugh and Elinor Yancey, who entertained soldiers overseas with Hugh’s “speed painting.” After four decades of unease spent doubting whether her relatives’ deaths had been covered up by officials, Randle’s FOIA requests for documents related to the plane crash that killed the Yanceys received responses. From Campbell’s piece:
For Leslie Randle, the government documents have answered many questions. Talk of wind speeds, oil spills, photos of wreckage, overcast skies, record cold temperatures and Navy divers fill Leslie’s explanation of her grandparents’ death. The government documents are well worn, marked with sticky notes and scrawls in the margin. She’s preparing to ask for more records through the Freedom of Information Act, hoping to unmask more of what’s behind the black markings.
Her research has answered questions for her family and others. She contacted the daughter of another passenger, a Navy fighter pilot with “top secret” status in government records. The daughter was surprised when she learned the government’s version of events was true. She had always assumed the story of USO performers aboard the plane was a government cover-up.
Leslie has also found four veterans, through the Internet, who were stationed at Cape Lisburne. Two were witnesses of the crash, poised to meet the flight on the runway, movie cameras in hand. Another two shared their photographs of the recovery mission and provided some details of that day’s site log write-up, long since forgotten.