Sports

Wednesday, Jan 22 2014 10:21 PM

Billy Ross, who survived '60 Cal Poly plane crash, dies at 78

BY JEFF EVANS Californian staff writer jevans@bakersfield.com

Billy Wayne Ross, one of the survivors of the 1960 Cal Poly football team plane crash, died in Bakersfield on Monday.

Ross, who was 78, died after a lengthy illness.

He was one of 48 people on board the flight that crashed shortly after taking off on Oct. 29, 1960, near Toledo, Ohio.

The crash killed 22, including 16 players, a student manager and a Cal Poly football booster. Of the 26 survivors, 24 had to be hospitalized.

Cal Poly spokesman Eric Burdick said Ross, who was an offensive tackle for the Mustangs, suffered severe burns from the crash and was in a Toledo-area hospital for more than a year for skin grafts and other treatment.

Among those killed in the crash were Bakersfield products Larry Austin, Joe Copeland and Curtis Hill. Also killed was Ray Porras from East Los Angeles who played football at Bakersfield College before transferring to Cal Poly.

The Bakersfield survivors were Ross, Carl Bowser and Roger Kelly.

Ross graduated from Arvin High and was inducted into the school's Bear Boosters Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010.

"I spent a few hours with him the night before he died," said Bowser, a longtime BC coach and athletic director. "He was a great friend."

Bowser said he and Ross were teammates at BC prior to their transfers to Cal Poly. Bowser, a running back, said he and Ross were sitting side by side at the time of the crash.

"From his head down he was burnt," Bowser said of Ross' injuries. "I can't believe he lived. That's because of his toughness. ...

"He was a fun and really smart guy. He blocked for me at BC and Cal Poly."

Bowser said many of Ross' Cal Poly teammates who are still alive plan on attending Ross' memorial service, which will be held at noon on Feb. 1 at the Kern Agriculture Pavilion, 3300 E. Belle Terrace Ave.

"Everybody loved the guy. He was very popular with his teammates," Bowser said.

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