Otter 364 was delivered to the United States Army on 1st April 1960 with serial 59-2221 (tail number 92221) and was first allocated to the Field Maintenance Depot at Fort Lewis, Washington, just to the south of Seattle. Personnel from the Depot went to Downsview to collect the factory-fresh, brand new Otter, the delivery routing being Downsview-Lansing, Michigan-Kansas City-Denver- Casper, Wyoming-Fort Lewis. This was a large, third-echelon overhaul depot, mostly dealing with helicopters such as the CH-21 during the early 1960s. The Otter flew to other depots such as Stockton, California delivering parts and personnel. The Otter was also used to support troops based at Fort Lewis, a common destination being the Army post at Yakima, Washington where there was a military reservation and training area.
By October 1962 92221 had joined the 17th Aviation Company at Fort Ord, California and in March 1963 it went for maintenance and then storage at the Army Depot in Atlanta, Georgia. In February 1966 it went to Vietnam, joining the 54th Aviation Company and it returned in November 1966 to the US, arriving at the ARADMAC Depot, Corpus Christi, Texas. The following month, December 1966, it arrived at the Sharpe Army Depot, Stockton, California for maintenance. This was after fixed wing overhaul at the ARADMAC Depot was discontinued and Stockton became the designated Otter depot. Between May 1967 and August 1967 it was in storage in Panama and it then joined the Inter American Geodetic Survey (IAGS) as a survey aircraft, painted in the red and white colour scheme, operating in Central and South America. It continued flying for the IAGS until it was destroyed in a crash in April 1969.
That month, 92221 was working in the Maracaibo Basin region of Venezuela, transporting personnel and supplies to the survey camps in the bush. It took off from Guadualita Airport at San Antonio del Tachira in the mountains and headed north up a river valley. The engine began to run rough shortly after take off. At that time, the Otter was flying over sugar cane fields but landing would have been risky due to the depth of the crop, a good eight feet. The crew reversed course and flew back towards the runway, as the engine deteriorated. On final approach, they were over sloping ground crossed by deep arroyos and sparsely occupied by people in adobe and thatch houses.
It appears that the pilot realised that he could not miss the last house on a small rise before the runway, and dove the Otter into the ground just short of the house. Sadly, the pilot and two passengers were killed instantly in the crash. The co-pilot survived with substantial injuries. Witnesses on the ground said he had been hanging out of his window just before the crash, yelling at people on the ground to get out of the way. The other passengers were also injured, although miraculously the crew chief was unhurt. On later examination of the engine, an exhaust valve pushrod on one of the cylinders was found to have failed.
The accident investigation team flew in to the airfield in a Beech U-21 from Albrook AFB, Panama.
The U-21 had a minor technical problem on arrival, but the crew were unable to call back to the Canal Zone as their HF radio was inoperative. They took the HF out of the crashed Otter, installed it in the U-21 and were able to establish a link with base via a relay through Homestead AFB., Florida. A USAF C-47 arrived to fly the Otter engine back to the depot at Corpus Christi, Texas for teardown and analysis, and it also brought in the needed spare parts to fix the U-21. The remains of the Otter were scrapped at the accident site.
Full history up to 2005 courtesy of Karl E Hayes © from DHC-3 Otter - A History (CD-ROM 2005)