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Paul Coates

February 6, 2008 |  4:49 pm

Feb. 6, 1958

Paul_coates I received a phone call last night, sheriff. A man asked me to pass a message along to you. My caller was Raymond McCafferty of Whittier.

Maybe you remember the name. He's the father of one of the 48 victims of Saturday's plane crash in Norwalk.

His only son, Leslie, 21, a crew member of the Navy Neptune plane, received prominent mention in the papers this week.

The stories said that Leslie's life might have been saved if the crash area hadn't become so congested with the morbidly curious. According to one story, it was two hours before Leslie reached a hospital.

But that's not why the boy's father contacted me.

He called to see if I had any "pull" with you; to see if I could get you to do something about the actions of one of your deputies who was at the scene.

The deputy's name is Kermit Kynell.

And McCafferty's done quite a bit of checking on him in the past few days. In fact,, he and his wife even drove over to Norwalk Sheriff's Station the other day to confer with him personally.

Actually, McCafferty's first contact with Kynell came through the impersonal medium of television.

1958_0903_kynell_2 It was on the evening of the crash and the McCaffertys had just learned that their son might have been on one of the involved planes. They turned on their TV set in hope and in dread.

A deputy--as it turned out later, it was Deputy Kynell--was being interviewed by George Putnam.

"The deputy," McCafferty told me, "had stains like blood or gasoline all over his uniform. He was telling Putnam about being inside the wreckage with one of the victims."

"I looked at my wife," McCafferty continued, "and she looked at me. I don't know--I can't remember--which one of us said it, but one of us said, 'Oh, my God, he must have been in there with Les.' " It was the next day before McCafferty found out for sure that their worst fears had been correct.

"I talked to anyone, everyone I could find who might know something about what happened to my boy. Whether he suffered much. Whether it was painful.

"That," the boy's father told me, "is how I learned so much about Kynell."

The man's voice choked.

"I learned that the deputy went into the airplane," he continued, "and helped my boy. He lifted some debris off of him and laid him down, made him more comfortable.

"He laid down in the mess, right beside him, and he talked to my boy and helped him.

"He got compresses. He applied them. Gasoline was raining down like water and he shielded my boy's face from it."

Raymond McCafferty paused.

"Mr. Coates," he started again, "that plane could have exploded at any time and that deputy would have been killed.

"That was a pretty wonderful thing for a man to do."

I told Mr. McCafferty that I agreed.

"And another thing," he continued, "when my wife and I talked to the deputy, he didn't tell us about what he personally had done.

"He just told us the things we wanted to hear.

"He told us that our boy was in shock most of the time and that he didn't suffer much. He told us little bits of the conversation.

"That's why I want you to call Sheriff Biscailuz. So that the deputy gets a citation. Will you call him?"

"I'll call him," I promised.

McCaferty thanked me. "One more thing," he added. "The deputy called me today to find out when the funeral was.

"He said he wanted to attend. He said he'd consider it an honor to go to the funeral because my boy died so much like a man."

Again there was a pause.

"I know it's not much," McCafferty said, finally, "but I'm going to do something for the deputy.

"I'm going to replace the uniform he ruined when he lay there with my son. They have to pay for their own uniforms.

"So I'm going to buy him a new one."