VIDEO VAULT | Plane crash in golf course resembles real event portrayed in film 'Casino'
Last week when a private plane made an unplanned landing in a golf course and ended up in a water hazard, it probably brought back memories for some longtime Las Vegans.
Back in 1981 it happened at the Las Vegas Country Club, and was later dramatized on the big screen in Martin Scorsese's 1996 movie "Casino". News 3 unearthed the original story three years ago from the station’s vault full of old 3/4” videotapes.
“You're being very open with us. I mean with books and papers. And that's gonna mean something when you go before the commission,” a Nevada Gaming Control Board agent was speaking with Sam “Ace” Rothstein in the fictionalized version of events.
“That's all I ask gentlemen, is a fair hearing,” replied Rothstein, as portrayed by Robert De Niro.
The conversation is interrupted as all eyes turn skyward to watch a small plane with a sputtering engine come in for an emergency landing at the adjacent golf course.
In that movie, Rothstein was a silver screen version of Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal.
The plane landing on the golf course actually happened, and News 3 covered it.
“David Goldwater describes what he saw,” voiced reporter Lynette Taylor.
“I was playing tennis, and I saw a plane just come down,” the boy told Taylor. “Didn't hear any sound because the engine must have been dead.”
32 years later, News 3 contacted Goldwater again.
His story hasn't changed...even the way he tells it. Both the boy and the man make the same hand motions while describing it.
“And then all of a sudden, this quiet glider glides over,” says 48-year-old David Goldwater, arcing his hand. “It's the most outstanding memory I have.”
The movie provides an explanation.
“They're f-----g agents, Frankie,” shouts Joe Pesci in the role of Nicky Santoro—loosely based on the real-life Tony Spilotro. “Look at this!”
“The feds were watching Nicky play golf for so long they ran out of gas,” narrates De Niro’s voice. “Just what I needed. Right in front of the Control Board.
“And I saw two men come out,” said young David in 1981. “Looked like they were in uniform. From Nellis [Air Force Base] or something.”
Who were they really? Yes, FBI agents, though their Las Vegas boss Joseph Yablonksy maintained it was just a training mission. The memory had been fading for Goldwater when the movie was released in 1996.
“I saw that,” he exclaimed. “That's what I thought. I saw that.”
Three and a half decades later it looks like it may have been part of the battle against the mob. Back then for a young boy taking tennis lessons, it was just an odd emergency landing, where the Channel-3 reporter needed a witness.
“She was just asking, ‘Did anybody see this?’ I said, ‘I saw it, I saw it, I saw it’!"
An investigator from the Federal Aviation Administration is now trying to decide why the plane was unable to make it McCarran Airport, instead landing in a lagoon.” concluded the reporter. “Lynette Taylor, Eyewitness News 3.”
The movie version was shot at the Las Vegas National Golf Course and stopped short of the drink. The real-life version was at the Las Vegas Country Club, and ended more like the one that recently took place at Painted Desert: In the drink.