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Reno, NV Airliner Crashes After Take-Off, Jan 1985


Reno, Nev. -- A chartered turboprop carrying up to 74 people home from a gambling junket crashed and burned just after takeoff Monday as the pilot tried to return to the airport because of vibrations. Authorities said all but three people on the plane were killed.
Galaxy Airlines Flight 203 a four engine Lockheed Electra 488 crashed in a field and slid onto a four lane highway after narrowly missing motels and apartment buildings. The plane had taken off at 3:05 a.m. (Chicago time) bound for Minneapolis on a charter by Caesars Tahoe Resort Hotel of Stateline a subsidiary of Caesars World Inc.
The plane was the same one that had been used by both the Rev. JESSE JACKSON and Sen. JOHN GLENN, D-Ohio during their unsuccessful campaigns for the presidency. JACKSON said the plane had once been ordered grounded at Dallas after flying through a storm.
JACKSON said he had been informed that crew members who flew him on his frenetic campaign travels were among those presumed dead in the Reno crash.
"I'm numb from the pain. I just feel numb," JACKSON said in a telephone interview. "I have profound sorrow because we knew the people personally."
The JACKSON campaign leased the turboprop for almost two months last spring. After a flight from Washington to Dallas in a severe hailstorm May 2, it was grounded for inspection by the Federal Aviation Administration and never used again by the candidate.
The Galaxy crash was the worst in the United States since a Pan American World Airways jet crashed in Kenner, La., July 9, 1982, killing 153 people, including eight people on the ground.
"If somebody hadn't told me that it was an airplane, I wouldn't have known what it was. You can't recognize any part of the wreckage," Gov. RICHARD BRYAN said after flying over the crash site near Reno Cannon International Airport.
Washoe County Sheriff VINCENT SWINNEY said the pilot "did an admirable job if he was trying to avoid hitting buildings." He said numerous residential buildings, a hotel and shopping mall were nearby in the burgeoning area of Reno.
Four people on the ground suffered minor injuries, said Washoe County Sheriff VINCE SWINNEY. The cause of their injuries was not immediately known.
Two other Electras used as cargo planes have crashed in the past year, killing a total of seven people.
The Lockheed Electra is a 1950's vintage airplane that has been praised by pilots for its handling but has a history mired by safety problems and spectacular accidents.
The Electra prop-jets experienced at least six major crashes and 360 deaths during its more than two decades or service.
"It was really shocking. The plane never seemed to get off the ground," said MARK BRENNER of Reno, who was driving by the scene when the plane went down.
BRENNER said one person, burned beyond recognition, ran from the airplane crying, "Help me. Help me," and was rolled in the dirt by passers-by. It was not immediately known whether he was among the survivors.
"All I remember is the explosions," said another witness. ELISA PAGM, "I saw flames flying up in the air. It was so loud. I was terrified."
Survivor GEORGE LAMSON, JR., 17 -- whose father also survived -- said the crash "happened so fast he couldn't remember anything," according to his mother, ADRIANNE, in St. Paul, Minn.
"It's a miracle. This boy essentially walked away from a crash where everyone else died," said JERRY CALVANESE, medical triage officer at the scene.

Minneapolis -- A woman whose husband and son survived Monday's fatal crash of a chartered airliner bringing tourists back from a Nevada gambling junket said "God must have been listening to me."
Another Minnesota couuple decided at the last minute not to take the flight because of a bad feeling.
They made reservations for the next flight to Minneapolis and returned to the casinos where they won $1,500 on the slot machines.
"I'm not a religious person but this is one time I believe in it," said ADRIANNE LAMSON of St. Paul, Minn., after learning that her husband, GEORGE, 42, and son, GEORGE, JR., 17, were among the only three survivors.
Galaxy Airlines FLight 203 crashed shortly after taking off from Reno, Nev. at 3:05 a.m. (Chicago time). Authorities said 68 passengers and six members were scheduled to ride the Lockheed Electra turboprop.
"We're still in a state of shock. We're still trying to put the pieces together," MRS. LAMSON said. "It seems God must have been listening to me."
Her son was in satisfactory condition at Washoe County Medical Center in Reno said spokeswoman JAN JOHNSON.
"It's a miracle. This boy essentially walked away from a crash where everyone else died," said JERRY CALVANESE medical triage officer at the scene.
GRACE said doctors didn't know exactly what happened to the boy. He told doctors he was on the left side of the plane and that it had started to band to the right, apparently trying to return to the airport.
Then there was an explosion and young LAMSON found himself in his seat on the ground GRACE said. The doctor said he didn't know if the explosion occurred in the air or when the plane hit the ground.
He said the boy told him he was still in his seat when he was thrown out of the plane, so he pulled the buckle and unstrapped himself.
MRS. LAMSON said her son told her the accident happened so fast he couldn't remember anything.
"The trip was kind of a junket. Gambling, skiing, whatever they wanted to do there," she said. "My son was there for the skiing. He's too young for gambling."
GRACE said the elder LAMSON underwent two hours of surgery and was in very critical condition with second and third degree burns over 15 percent of his body, a skull fracture, a facial fracture, and breaks in his right leg and left wrist.
A couple from Bloomington also were scheduled to take the flight, but canceled their reservations at the last minute.
"My father had a bad feeling about it. Also, my mom was pretty tired, so they decided to take another flight," RUSS ABALAN said of his parents, DOUGLAS and BEV ABALAN.
After bypassing the flilght the ABALANS won $1,500 on slot machines and were celebrating when they heard of the crash, said LAURIE ARMSTRONG, a publicist for the MGM hotel-casino.
The third survivor, ROBERT W. MIGGINS, 45, of Plymouth, a Minneapolis suburb, was in "extremely critical" condition with third-degree burns over 90 percent of his body and underwent surgery Monday at Southern Nevada Memorial Hospital in Las Vegas, said hospital administrator DICK COUGHLIN.
DAVE MEYER and ANDY CONNEY, both of Minneapolis said they had come to the airport to greet SAM FRANGALE and KAY MEYER, of Minneapolis, who were married in Lake Tahoe, Calif., while on the weekend trip. DAVE MEYER and KAY MEYER are not related.
"We got a call yesterday afternoon," CONNEY said. "They were all happy. They said they would see us today."
The two young men, visibly upset, were joined by a minister who took them into a private room at the airport.

Daily Herald Chicago Illinois 1985-01-22

article | by Dr. Radut