Wreck of N7304P, northern Greenwater Range

Wreck of N7304P, northern Greenwater Range
Exploring wreck sites can be a fascinating adventure, offering a unique glimpse into the past. However, it's important to approach these visits with respect and mindfulness. Please remember, these sites are not attractions—they're part of our heritage and often serve as final resting places. We encourage all visitors to observe without disturbing, to take nothing but photographs, and to leave no trace of their visit. By doing so, we can ensure these sites remain intact for future generations to explore and learn from. Thank you for being a responsible explorer and guardian of history.

Located in the northern Greenwater Range above the Widow Mine (see our trip to The Baby Gauge for more information on the Widow) is the wreck of a single engine Piper Comanche tail number N7304P, flown by LaVern DeBerg, the sole fatality in the crash. This excerpt is taken directly from the NTSB accident report:

"On December 23, 1995, about 1245 hours Pacific standard time, a Piper PA-24-250, N7304P, was destroyed after colliding with mountainous terrain near Death Valley, California. The pilot was fatally injured. According to witnesses, instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal cross-country flight and no flight plan was filed. The flight originated at Nervino, California, on the day of the accident about 1030 hours, and was destined for Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

Concerned family members notified the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other agencies when the aircraft did not arrive at its destination. They also contacted various airports along the route. The nearest airport to the accident site was Furnace Creek Airport in Death Valley. Personnel at the Furnace Creek Inn stated there was no traffic in or out of the airport that day due to low clouds and generally poor weather.

On June 27, 1996, the aircraft wreckage was discovered by microwave technicians en route to an antenna site in the remote area of Death Valley's Greenwater Mountain Range at an elevation of 4,000 feet msl. The location was 36 degrees 18 minutes 15 seconds north by 116 degrees 38 minutes 48 west, or 153 degree radial of the Beatty VOR at 30 nautical miles. The location was 16 miles east of Furnace Creek."

We set out to find the wreckage on January 15, 2024, below is our trip report.

Even though we had the Jeep, we decided to park lower on the volcanic plateau and get some exercise. From this vantage point, we had a great view of Pyramid Peak and the rest of the Funeral Mountains across the valley.
The wreck is atop that higher plateau west of the benchmark for Devair on the western flank of the Greenwater Range above the Widow Mine. In this shot, the Death Valley Railroad right-of-way is directly below us (see our trip The Death Valley Railroad (northern section for more on that).
The northern Greenwater Range is geologically spectacular. It's old ocean bottom covered (and protected for millions of years) by a layer of lava. In this shot, Ryan Camp, California is just off the right hand side of the frame. You can clearly see the black layers of basalt lava from the Funeral Formation and then they suddenly stop at an orange-tan band which is the underlying oceanic sandstone from which the massive borax mines operated. In the distance is the Black Mountains where Dante's View is located and just beyond that is Badwater at 282 feet below sea level. As an unusual coincidence, I took the GPS coordinates for this photo and it was exactly 10 air miles to Badwater with a vertical relief of exactly 4,000 feet!
As we climbed up the Devair plateau and turned west, the old Death Valley Railroad track bed became immediately obvious. Almost directly in the middle of the photo is the Played Out Mine waste rock and directly below us is the old miner's cemetery we found in our trip along the northern section of the DVRR.
Turning west, we got our first look at what we suspected was the wreck. In this photo it's a small white spot on the left edge of the plateau slightly downslope. On the right side of the plateau is a small building which is the microwave facility referenced in the accident report. From here we had another 2 miles of walking to do - everything in the desert is further away than it looks.
As we got closer, it became clear that we were looking at the wreck.
We approached the wreck from below to be careful that we didn't accidentally knock any rocks down onto it or disturb the wreck itself. What you see in this photo is mostly the right wing and remnants of the fuselage. None of the wreck was removed, but there isn't much of the main cabin left as it was consumed in the post-crash fire.
As we got closer, we began seeing more small parts of the wreck that were thrown forward (towards the east) during the impact.
Electronics thrown clear of the main point of impact.
Some sort of gauge or sensor thrown clear of the main point of impact.
The main wreck, at the point of impact, is comprised mostly of the right wing and burned out remnants of the fuselage. You can see the flap was thrown clear of the wing at impact and the landing gear is intact.
Gauge housing.
Control box, possibly radio or PA.
Close-up of the right wing and landing gear.
The Lycoming power plant.
The overall wreck site with the wing, horizontal stabilizer, power plant, and some structural framing. Lower in the near distance is the borax deposits of the Widow Mine. Further out is Greenwater Valley and the Black Mountains.
A radio.
Nose landing gear.
A cross for LaVern DeBerg, the pilot and sole fatality, in this crash.
A memorial for LaVern DeBerg, the pilot and sole fatality, in this crash. October 10, 1938 December 23, 1995
The other wing is about 60 feet down from the main wreck in a gully.
Rocks at the initial point of impact still showing scrapes 29 years later.
As we walked backed the overcast skies that had been with us most of the day began to clear revealing a spectacular view of Pyramid Peak. I can't speak for LaVern, but I think this isn't the worst resting place a man could have. "If mortals could choose, and if heaven should ask us Here's where I'd want to spend all of my days"- Marty Robbins