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Remembering the horrible day in 1943 when a plane crashed onto O.C. beach, killing 4 children

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On a warm June afternoon in 1943, the Silva and Borrego families imagined a visit to Huntington Beach would be a typical day on the sand and in the water.

They never imagined the day would change their lives forever.

As the families played on Huntington State Beach, a P-38 fighter plane flying overhead on a training mission began to malfunction.

The pilot turned the plane toward the ocean and ejected from the aircraft. However, the unmanned plane turned back toward the shore and crashed near the pier, injuring about 40 beachgoers and killing four children — two daughters each from the Silva and Barrego families.

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A memorial event was held last month, 73 years after the crash, at Huntington by the Sea — a mobile home park across from the crash site — to honor the children who died and the first responders who helped that day.

Paul Julian and Richard Julian of Advanced Real Estate Services Inc. also donated a plaque that will be installed at the clubhouse.

The idea for a memorial was first brought up during an October City Council meeting when local writer and historian Chris Epting told the dais about the crash and suggested that a memorial be raised.

World War II veterans and family members of those who were affected by the day attended the event last month.

Maria Young, whose mother, Vera Silva, lost siblings that day, recalled her mother’s story.

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Silva, who was 10 at the time of the crash, stayed behind to care for her grandmother while her parents and siblings went to the beach.

Some of her family never returned home and others were badly burned. The day shook her so much that she rarely shared the story.

“My mom was uncomfortable with me getting married on the beach, and I didn’t understand that,” said Young, who lives in Huntington by the Sea. “Little by little, the story came out. ... I want this to be a time when my mom feels OK to talk about it and so people can know the Borregos and Silvas are not forgotten.”

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