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17-01-1966

H-bomb lost in Spain

On January 17, 1966, citizens of the Spanish coastal village of Palomares suffer a portentous scare when two U.S. Air Force jets collide in the skies overhead. The mid-air crash of the B-52 bomber and a KC-135 refueling plane killed eight crew members and dropped three 70-kiloton hydrogen bombs on the land and one in the sea. One thousand U.S. soldiers and experts were dispatched to clean up the wreckage strewn over the small town. None of the bombs were armed, but explosive material in two of the bombs that fell to earth exploded upon impact, forming craters and scattering radioactive plutonium over the fields of Palomares. A third bomb landed in a dry riverbed, and was recovered relatively intact. The fourth bomb fell into the sea at an unknown location. After an extensive search, the nuclear weapon was found, intact, in nearby waters. The United States eventually settled some 500 claims by Palomares residents whose health was adversely affected by the accident.