This past Memorial Day, we set out to find a treasure hidden in the New Jersey woods.
We drove an hour west of the city to a pleasant area of New Jersey, then turned off into an unassuming residential neighborhood and parked at the end of a cul-de-sac.
Just off the street, we found a trail into the woods and began our hike, following a GPS coordinate that quickly took us far off the beaten path…
As we bushwhacked through the thick foliage, we could practically feel each poison ivy leaf brushing against our bare legs…
…while many a shoe were nearly lost to the swampy mud, freshly soaked from a night of heavy rains (good thing we came so well-prepared for this!).
And then, we saw it up ahead, nestled in the fertile overgrowth: the wreckage of a crashed jet plane.
Words really really can’t describe how surreal it is to come across something so out of place (though I definitely started having Lost flashbacks). The jet, a Lockheed T2V-1 “Seastar” training plane, crashed in 1962 and has been here ever since. Back in its heyday, this…
…would have looked like this…
Though significantly decayed, the fuselage and wings are still in tact – in fact, you can even see one of the faded military insignia on a wing:
According to the West Milford Messenger, in 1962, two pilots flying a training mission out of Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field had a flame out and crashed into “a “’heavily wooded swamp’ reportedly infested with poisonous snakes” (er, wish we had known about those poisonous snakes before we set out!).
Incredibly, despite the ejection system failing, both pilots survived the crash and were found standing near the wreckage by the first officials on the scene. They were treated at nearby Chilton Hospital for back injuries and abrasions.
Even more amazingly, the crash site is a mere 300 yards or so from a residential neighborhood, and a potential disaster was narrowly avoided. I love the faded technical writing:
According to its entry on waymarking.com, a military helicopter later retrieved the engine (nearly crashing in the progress) for salvage.
The plane was then painted orange to identify it as “found wreckage of a known crash” in case anyone else spotted it (most of the orange paint has since faded away) – and left here to rot.
Inside one of the wings, leaves grow around what looks like a very powerful arm mechanism:
For decades, the wreckage was only known to a handful of locals, many of whom had accidentally stumbled on it while hiking or hunting. The site has become more popular in recent years, and the plane has been further damaged by souvenir collectors.
The rear of the fuselage is simply gone…
…with no tail to speak of.
On the opposite wing, a faded orange X:
We found the nose of the plane some distance away…
When first reported to Weird NJ, the nose was still attached.
Someone has since dragged it about 100 feet away, and it now rests on a piece of plywood. Very cool if the intention was to prevent it from sinking in the mud, not so cool if someone was trying to cart it off for scrap.
The inner workings of the nose:
More orange paint on the side:
I love the little bits of technical wording:
For anyone looking to visit the site, you can find the exact location with a minimal amount of online research. One piece of advice: dress appropriately. Crappy old sneakers and cargo shorts are not a smart way of combating poison ivy, ticks, and a VERY muddy swamp.
Also, FYI, we saw this sign on the way out…
Coming across the wreckage of a crashed jet in the middle of a New Jersey swamp is something too priceless to last. I have a feeling at some point in the future, this will simply disappear one night, and the story of the West Milford crash will descend into legend. So check it out before it’s too late. And remember: no souvenirs!
If you enjoyed reading this post, would you consider making a donation to help me make my first movie? The goal is $30,000, and already, 1,473 generous readers have donated $31,888.00. Just $5 or $10 can make a difference - AND you get a snazzy Scouting NY sticker or magnet as a Thank-You gift! Click here to donate today!