On this day in history, a U.S. B-52 bomber collided with a KC-135 tanker during a mid-air refueling at 31,000 feet over the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Spain. The KC-135 was completely destroyed when its fuel load ignited, killing all four crew members. The B-52G broke apart, killing three of the seven crew members aboard.
The B-52 carried four nuclear weapons. One was recovered from the sea on April 7, after extensive search and recovery efforts. The recovered B28 nuclear bomb had a maximum yield of 1.45 megatons. The remaining three were found on land near the small fishing village of Palomares in Spain. The nuclear payloads of the four American B28 hydrogen bombs did not detonate when they landed, although the conventional explosives in two of the bombs did explode, showering some 500 acres around the fishing village of Palomares with three kilograms of highly radioactive plutonium-239.
Approximately 1400 tons of slightly contaminated soil and vegetation were removed to the United States for storage at an approved site. Representatives of the Spanish government monitored the cleanup operation.
Obviously, it could have been much worse….