In lieu of yesterday’s unfortunate car crash at Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor, resulting in the death of a 73-year-old woman and injuring six others, memories of two other fatally tragic crashes at the famous family eatery began to resurface. In 1972, a small speeding fighter jet failed to take off from a nearby airfield successfully, crashing into the restaurant and killing 12 children and 10 adults. Ten years later, in 1982, a small family-owned single-engine aircraft nose-dived into the middle of traffic in front of a Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor, killing the three passengers on board. All three occurrences coincidentally happened at California locations.
The third in the series happened yesterday, April 25, in Buena Park, CA, southwest of Los Angeles in Orange County. After an elderly man leaving the parlor got into his SUV, which was parked right in front of the restaurant where patrons were gathered waiting to be seated, the vehicle quickly lurched forward, plowing through a decorative metal fence and pummeling through the crowd. Upon impact, an elderly woman was pinned beneath the vehicle and several others were left stunned, holding broken and bloodied limbs.
The elderly woman was later identified as Marisa Malin, 73. She was rushed to the hospital where she later died, according to the coroner’s report. The other victims at the scene include two adults, two small children, and a teenager. All went to the hospital with minor to moderate injuries. A sixth was treated at the scene with minor wounds. It has not yet been determined if any of the affected were family members or acquaintances. No one inside the bustling parlor was hurt. Neither the driver, nor his passenger, was injured in the incident. The elderly driver reportedly cooperated with the police, but was not immediately cited. Reasons for the abrupt collision are still unknown, however it is expected that the man behind the wheel either accidentally put his car into drive instead of reverse or stepped on the gas pedal instead of the brake.
The 1982 crash never made impact with the family-friendly destination, and thankfully no bystanders were unintentionally harmed. The single-engine passenger plane plunged from the sky, crashing right in front of Farrells in the middle of Hawthorne Boulevard, a major thoroughfare running through Torrence, CA, 20 miles south of Los Angeles. It was reported that the head-first collision sent a fireball rolling down the heavily populated street and shot flames over 100 feet into the air. The heat was so intense it scorched several nearby parked cars, destroying them entirely. Patrons of the restaurant referred to the explosion as an inferno.
A waitress said when the plane exploded, it “went up like a mushroom.” She also reported seeing an arm come out of one of the airplane’s windows as if someone was trying to get out. According to her story, everyone in the restaurant jumped up and fled without paying their bills, but the restaurant employees were trying to keep everyone inside because of the heat intensity. Initially some thought the impact was an earthquake.
Due to the intensity of the fire, positive identities of those inside the plane had to wait until dental records were confirmed. The passengers were eventually identified as Don Morgan, 44, a fire captain for the LAFD, his teenage daughter Michelle, and another middle-aged man. The three were plane-hopping through the area to grab a bite to eat during their short flight to Catalina Island, 26 miles away, where they were going to celebrate the Easter weekend together. While emergency officials were clearing the area, a young man abruptly stopped his car near the scene, running toward the wreckage with tears in his eyes, crying, “Oh God, that’s them!” After being restrained by police officers and collapsing in grief, he was identified as one of the pilot’s sons.
Barely escaping injury was a group of children gathered around a window table for a birthday party with a front row seat to the explosion. An attendee who happened to be videotaping the birthday event at that moment, turned his camera on the perilous crash, which was later broadcast on newscasts covering the story.
Patrons at Farrell’s Ica Cream Parlor during the crash in 1972, the most fatal of all three incidents, were not so fortunate. This hapless and tragic event occurred in Sacramento, about 400 miles north of the Los Angeles area crashes. Over the weekend, there had been an air show in a field neighboring the Crossroads shopping center, which was home to the famous ice cream parlor chain. Sunday evening, as the air show was concluding, many aircrafts geared up to depart the airfield. The Sabre Mark 5, a Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft, unfortunately, did not have a successful departure. As the Sabre Mark started down the runway, it porpoised twice, bouncing up and down on the runway, and even though it landed back gently on the ground each time, it never took off properly. It was later discovered that due to the pilot taking off too quickly, the fighter jet overran the runway, shooting up over a levee, tearing through a chain-link fence, and smashing into a traveling car as it skidded across Freeport Boulevard. The aircraft’s course ground to an explosive halt when it impacted the Howard Hughes Room of Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor, where the Sacramento 49ers little league football squad had been enjoying a team dinner.
A huge ball of fire erupted into the air. Several cars in the parking lot had been knocked sideways. A grill from one of the automobiles flew inside the restaurant. The high temperatures charred paint on cars parked up to 60 feet away. Energy from the explosion toppled mannequins in shops nearby. Plumes of thick, dark smoke billowed out of the bright red restaurant. Every single one of Sacramento’s public and private emergency responders were called to the scene, dragging bodies of patrons from the burning parlor. A makeshift coroner’s office was promptly set up in a far corner of the parking lot.
Bystanders immediately rescued the pilot, general manager of Spectrum Air, Richard Bingham, 36, from the wreckage. As he was being taken away on a gurney, he kept saying, “I’m sorry…I’m sorry. Get the people out!” He suffered a broken arm and several facial cuts. Running across the busy boulevard to assist in the relief, a couple in their early 60s, were unexpectedly hit by a large truck they failed to see coming their way.The wife, Billie Irwin, 61, died from complications to her injuries.
Crowds of people, many who had just attended the air show, had to be held back by police lines. As they watched, the rescue workers recovered debris and bodies for several hours. Airplane parts were taken away for further investigation. One of the last recovery efforts was performed by a tow truck that pulled the fuselage of the aircraft away from the restaurant, pulling apart a large section of its front wall. Clearing away the debris that had collected under the plane, fireman found a demolished car and two more bodies.
In total, the crash resulted in the deaths of 12 children and 10 adults, including the couple in the buried car. Twenty-eight others were wounded by in tragedy. Of the survivors was an eight-year-old child who lost nine family members: both parents, a sister, two brothers, two cousins, and two grandparents. There was also an entire family of four that never left after their last meal.
Farrell’s is famously known as a cheerful chain of restaurants with decorations and wait staff costumes recalling century-old ice cream parlors. Servers happily adorn cane hats, pin-striped vests, and old-fashioned ties, according to its website fact page History of Fun. The first enterprise opened in 1963 in Portland, OR. Over the last fifty years, the franchise has experienced both booming success and near obliteration. A recent revival is seeing Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor and its old-timey good-natured fun re-emerge nationwide, apparently taking its tragic and fatal curse along with it.
By Stacy Feder