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Bonsall's Frank 'Scoop' Vessels killed in plane crash

Frank “Scoop” Vessels III, 58, the owner of Vessels Stallion Farm in Bonsall and a friend, Sam Cannell, 73, were killed when a small plane registered under his name crashed in eastern Oregon yesterday, August 11. Vessels was known for being one of North County’s most prominent quarter horse and thoroughbred breeders.

According to the Orange County Register website, witnesses saw the plane, which was being flown by Vessels, plummet to the ground. They reported that pieces of the plane broke apart and a wing was torn off.

The plane, a 1962 Aero Commander Model 500-B, had departed from Redding and was making its way to Montana, officials said. The plane crashed near Oregon's historic Riddle Ranch in Harney County.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spokesman Ian Gregor told the San Diego Union-Tribune the twin-engine Aero Commander 500B crashed under "unknown circumstances" about 9 a.m. Wednesday.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, and officials said it usually takes three to five days to complete their work.

Vessels, a former American Quarter Horse Association president, was owner of Vessels Stallion Farm in Bonsall.

According to the Associated Press, Cannell, of Anderson, Calif., was an architect, as well as a horse owner and breeder. He was a partner with Vessels on the horse Little Bit of Baja.

The Vessels family has held a prominent position in the community of Bonsall for several generations. In 1951, Frank Vessels, Sr., founded the Los Alamitos Race Course, and then began investing in his own animals, marking the beginning of the Vessels Stallion Farm.

Frank Jr. and his wife Millie, Scoop’s parents, took over the racetrack and ranch, keeping Vessels Stallion Farm at the top of the breeding business. Following Frank Jr. and Millie’s deaths in 1974 and 1984, respectively, Scoop took the reigns of the family business.

Scoop had been involved with the family business since 1981, managing several of the Vessels properties, including the San Luis Rey Downs Training Center. Given his nickname for constantly being in the horse stalls as a child, Scoop led the purchase of the 2,000-acre ranch that would be the new Vessels Stallion Farm.

According to the Vessels Farm website, Scoop personally designed and oversaw the construction of every aspect of the Farm’s new home. By the time he was done, the old five-acre stud farm had been turned into a 400-acre state-of-the-art breeding and boarding facility. The horses and staff were moved to the new location in late 1986, and thus it was time for a new beginning for Vessels Stallion Farm.

With the Los Alamitos racetrack having been sold in the early 1980s, Scoop was free to put all of his time and energy into the development and growth of Vessels Stallion Farm. The breeding operation, which for earlier generations had always been secondary to the management of Los Alamitos, became the primary focus for Scoop. Soon, the Vessels name was synonymous with the successful breeding program at the farm.

In 1999, Scoop sold the San Luis Rey Downs Training Center.

Scoop’s love for horses and interest in the future of horse racing allowed him to devote his time serving in several industry leadership roles.

Scoop served for several years as a director of the Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Racing Association, and was named to the American Quarter Horse Association’s five-member Executive Committee in 2000, eventually serving as that organization’s president in 2004-2005.

Scoop was also a member of the prestigious Jockey Club, and served as the current board member of the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association.

Scoop’s friends and business partners were equally shocked by the news of his untimely passing.

“When the news of his passing was confirmed it devastated me. Scoop Vessels and I have been business partners and friends for a long time. I will always respect his love for racing and I had a great deal of admiration for the man that he grew up to be. He was a man of ideas and always looking forward to helping improve the sport of Quarter Horse racing,” said Edward C. Allred, owner of Los Alamitos Race Course.

“The passing of Scoop will be hard for Quarter Horse racing not only in California but also nationally to overcome. There could not be a person in this sport more significant in terms of ability, background and family heritage,” Allred continued. “Vessels Stallion Farm has been the dominant source of Quarter Horse racing bloodlines for many years and we depend on their racing stock. Above and beyond that, Scoop was devoted to this sport and the horses, not only Quarter Horses but Thoroughbreds as well. As a past president of the American Quarter Horse Association and the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association, Scoop spent his life working in the production and promotion of fine horses. We will have to dig deep to overcome, survive and thrive as a sport without him. It will be a difficult task. It’s the biggest blow this industry could have suffered. We couldn’t have lost anyone of more importance.”

“I have been fortunate to have known Scoop for over 30 years, both as a colleague and a personal friend,” said Leigh Ann Howard, manager of the San Luis Rey Downs and Chair board member of the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association. “Having been deeply involved in both the Thoroughbred industry and the Quarter Horse industry, he was a dynamic force in the equine industry as a whole. Scoop was the organizer of the California Horse Council, which has been powerful in uniting all breeds and disciplines in California. Our loss is incomprehensible; our privilege was to have known him. He will continue to be a great inspiration to us all.”

“We were saddened to hear about the tragic and untimely death of Mr. Vessels,” said Ogden Mills Phipps, chairman of The Jockey Club. “He had a true passion for the horse racing industry and his active participation on a wide range of projects and committees reflected his dedication to the sport. We extend our condolences to his family and his many friends throughout the industry.”

Scoop is survived by his wife, Bonnie and their sons Kash, Colt and Bryan. An outdoor memorial service will be held at Vessels Stallion Farm in Bonsall on Monday, August 16th at 4:00 p.m. and will be open to the public. The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, any donations be made to the American Quarter Horse Association Foundation.

(Previous story follows)

BONSALL - A small plane registered to Frank 'Scoop' Vessels, a prominent North County breeder of quarter horses and thoroughbreds and owner of Vessels Stallion Farm in Bonsall crashed in Oregon yesterday, killing the two people on board.

The American Quarter Horse Association reported on its website that one of the dead was registered owner Vessels. According to the association, Vessels and a friend, Sam Cannell, were returning to Redding, Calif., from a fishing trip when the plane crashed Wednesday morning.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor told The San Diego Union-Tribune the twin-engine Aero Commander 500B crashed under "unknown circumstances" about 9 a.m. Wednesday about 70 miles south of Burns, Oregon.

Vessels, a former American Quarter Horse Association president, was owner of Vessels Stallion Farm in Bonsall and is survived by his wife Bonnie and sons Bryan, Colt and Kash.

Watch this site for more information as a more detailed story is under development.


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