Wing Luke, Sidney Gerber, and Kate Ladue vanish while flying over the Cascades on May 16, 1965.

  • By Walt Crowley
  • Posted 1/16/1999
  • Essay 717
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On May 16, 1965, Seattle City Council member Wing Luke, philanthropist and civic leader Sidney Gerber, and Gerber's assistant Kate Ladue vanish during a flight over the Cascade Range in Gerber's small airplane.

Luke was elected to the Council on March 13, 1962, and became the first Chinese American to achieve high public office in the continental United States. Gerber was a dynamic business and civic leader who chaired Washington state's first equal opportunity commission.

The three had been on a fishing trip. On May 16, 1965 at 11 a.m., they took off in a black and yellow Cessna 180 seaplane from Lake Wannacutt located 10 miles south of Oroville in Okanogan County, Washington. They were due to arrive in Seattle around 2 p.m. At the time they would have crossed the Cascades there was a snowstorm and it was "blustery, with high winds, broken clouds and general storm activity"(Seattle Post-Intelligencer May 19, 1965).

They were reported missing on May 17, 1965, and the search began. The following day, 30 planes were searching for the downed plane on both sides of Stevens Pass.

Despite this intensive search, the wreckage of Gerber's plane was not found until 1968.


Walt Crowley, Rites of Passage: A Memoir of the Sixties in Seattle (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995), 207, 222; Seattle Post-Intelligencer May 18, 1965, p. 1; May 19, 1965, pp. 1, 12;  William Gough, "Luke Plane Crash Triggered Costliest Search in State's History," The Seattle Times, October 13, 1968, p. 24.
Note: This essay was corrected on May 14, 2015.

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