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Fifty-eight years since plane carrying Cal Poly football team plane crashed

Posted: 6:32 PM, Oct 29, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-30 02:24:37-04

On October 29, 1960, a plane carrying the Cal Poly football team crashed, killing 22 of the 48 people on board. 

On that plane was Carl Bowser, Joe Copeland and Larry Austin, three Bakersfield boys who grew up together and were best friends through childhood. The three went to grade school, Bakersfield High School and Bakersfield College together before ending up at Cal Poly on the football team. Larry and Joe were both married, Larry with a young son.

Both Joe and Larry were killed in the crash, leaving Carl without his two life-long friends.

"At the time I had wished I that I had lost my life and Larry kept his life because he had children, I didn't. So it would've been a lot easier for me to die than for him to die, you know, but you don't get that choice," Carl said.

The three always joked about returning to Bakersfield to be local football coaches and Carl lived out that dream when he became the Bakersfield College football coach, working at the school for 30 years.

Carl still visits their graves in Bakersfield. He says their side-by-side graves are fitting because they also were born side-by-side. Their mothers gave birth hours apart in the same hospital, then the two men died sitting next to each other in the plane crash. Now, they're buried next to each other.

Carl says a reason football legend John Madden doesn't fly is because of this crash. While Madden wasn't in the crash itself, he was on the Cal Poly football team. Carl says this crash and a couple other close-calls are the reason Madden travels by bus inside of flying.