Friday Flashback: Plane Crash

January 16, 2009

A bitter cold January day. A plane takes off, but is only airborne a brief time before disaster strikes and the plane crashes into the icy waters of a local river…

But miraculously, everyone on board the plane survived the impact and was quickly brought to safety. Right?

Actually, no. I wasn’t referring to the US Airways flight that crashed in New York yesterday. I was recalling the Air Florida Flight 90 disaster of 1982, which happened nearly 27  years to the day before the US Air crash.

Seeing the images of the plane floundering in the Hudson River yesterday quickly brought back memories of being glued to the television on that snowy afternoon in Bethesda, Maryland. We had been dismissed early from school because of the weather, so I was home. I don’t remember how we first heard the news, but it is likely that I had turned on the TV to watch some mindless program when the broadcast was interrupted with the breaking news (back then, we only had the major networks and a public broadcasting station to watch).

The plane had taken off from Washington National Airport, but was barely able to get airborne before ice on the wings caused it to crash – first into the 14th Street Bridge, and then into the Potomac River. Several vehicles on the bridge were crushed from the plane’s impact before it went into the water.

Growing up on the outskirts of Washington, DC, I was somewhat accustomed to seeing “big stuff”on the news. (In fact, I realized later in life that for a very long time I had not really had a good grasp of the distinction between “national” news and “local” news. Much of what I would see on the national news was happening in my own back yard, after all.)  But this event was BIG.

Only five of the 79 people on board the Air Florida flight survived. The few that did survive the crash itself then had to contend with hypothermia as they waited in the water to be rescued. I watched in agony as Priscilla Tirado let the rescue line slip through her frozen hands more than once, and then was amazed when bystander Lenny Skutnik dived in to pull her out of the icy water. He was wearing a short sleeved blue shirt. I will never forget that image.

Watching the footage of the US Airways disaster yesterday, everything turned out so well that it almost looked easy. It appears that a lot of the passengers never even got wet. There were ferry boats pulling up to cart survivors off within minutes of the crash. It was quite remarkable.

I wonder what the survivors of Air Florida Flight 90 were thinking when they saw the news yesterday.


One comment

  1. I’m glad no one was hurt in the crash, sounds like the pilot did a great job

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