Valley man survived deadly fire on U.S.S. Forrestal

In an office in Edcouch where Tony Sandoval serves as the Executive Director for the housting authority, the Elsa, Texas man listens to a recording of his captain's voice over the intercom on July 29th, 1967.

"We thank you for the courage for those who gave their lives saving their shipmates today...we humbly ask you to grant them peace and to their loved ones, the consolation and strength to bare their loss."

Sandoval's eyes tear up immediately as he says,"It's just very,well, I'm sorry."

Sandoval was 21 years old when he was aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal.

"This was during the Vietnam era and we were sent out to the Yankee station just off of North Vietnam."

Dropping between 80,000 and 100,000 tons of ordinance a day on enemy positions.

"And this ship was the first of it's kind, it had the angled flight deck launching an aircraft from the front, from the side, all 4 minutes apart all perfect timing," said Sandoval.A lieutenant commander named John McCain was on one of those aircraft and is more commonly known now as Senator McCain, former presidential candidate.

There were hundreds of others whose names would be known years later, but because of their final moments aboard the Forrestal.

"I remember it clearly and sometimes the nightmares are still there.There was a loud explosion and then a chain reaction."

The Forrestal wasn't under attack, it was on fire from within and the large bombs on board were exploding and killing anyone in their path including two valley men.

"I knew Ramiro Garza from Mission and Daniel Cavazos from Mercedes. I had just seen them the day before. They were asleep when the fire started because of their work shift and many of the men who died were burned or killed instantly.

The two men would be among 134 killed that fatal day in 1967 aboard the USS Forrestal. Today the ghost carrier has been brought to the valley, Tony wants to see it one last time to honor his fallen shipmates.

"It's going to be very emotional for us to see her one last time."

The USS Forrestal is at the Port of Brownsville and will be scrapped for metal.