SAN LUIS OBISPO (KCBS) – Friday marked fifty years since a devastating plane crash in Toledo, Ohio claimed the lives of 16 varsity football players from California Polytechnic State University.
“It was a difficult period of time,” reflected Oakland Raiders offensive coach Ted Tollner, a Cal Poly player at the time and crash survivor. “But time to some degree heals and you have to adjust and move on. Like anybody that’s involved in an accident and loses dear friends or family, you just at some point you’ve got to move on.”
KCBS’ Melissa Culross Reports:
Tollner was a 20-year-old junior at Cal Poly and quarterback of the football team when the plane went down in 1960.
Cal Poly had lost to Bowling Green, and the team was taking off for the return flight when tragedy struck.
“I was on the wing so I knew, you know I heard the engine sputter and go and so I knew we were going down,” he remembered. “But there’s not much you can do, you just kind of by human nature you protect your head and you put your hands over and the next thing I knew, we hit.”
Tollner described returning to school after the crash as a difficult process, but he was resilient. Tollner, who is the current Raiders passing game coordinator, has had a long career as a college and NFL coach, including a stint with the 49ers in 2007-2008.
Roy Scialabba was an 18-year-old sophomore when the plane crashed. He planned to attend a weekend memorial at Cal Poly.
“Our players that passed away and gave their lives, they didn’t want us to stop living. Because they were livers, they were good people, they were fighters, that’s why they were on our team.”
There were 48 people on board the plane. 22 died.
“Our team members don’t want us to be down,” Scialabba described the tone he hoped to set at the memorial, which would also be a reunion for the surviving 1960 teammates. “We’re going to praise them, we’re going to tell them, say how good they are. And we’re going to remember it as a time and a date at Cal Poly we’ll never forget.”
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