Aliquippa, PA Jetliner Crashes, Sep 1994
DEVASTATION GRIM AT CRASH SCENE.
Aliquippa, Pa. (AP) -- The jetliner banked to the right, rolled a few times and nose-dived into a ravine. There was a muffled boom, then the sky turned bright with flames as a black cloud of smoke mushroomed into the air.
"It was just coming straight down," said one person who saw the USAir jetliner crash Thursday evening.
All 132 people aboard the Boeing 737-300 died -- the deadliest crash in the United States since 1987 and USAir's fifth fatal crash in as many years.
A pilot, nurse and paramedic flown in by a medical helicopter walked through the site moments after the 7:19 p.m. crash. They saw body parts hanging from trees and baggage strewn everywhere.
"It was total devastation," said Jim Bothwell, director of operations for the STAT MedEvac helicopter service. "The airplane was in a million pieces and the people inside were in pieces."
USAir Flight 427 originated in Chicago and was to stop in Pittsburgh before continuing to West Palm Beach, Fla.
Jason Moka, a 10-year-old who was playing soccer a half-mile from where the plane went down, said its engines seemed to be sputtering before the crash.
The crew radioed Pittsburgh International Airport when the plane was about six miles away and "there was no indication at that time of any difficulty," USAir said in a statement this morning. Skies were clear.
Investigators hoped to gain some clues from the plane's black box, which records flight data. An emergency worker said the box was recovered.
The plane was powered by CFM-3B1 engines, made by CFM International, a joint venture of General Electric Co. and French manufacturer Snecma. The plane was manufactured in 1987 and had logged 23,846 flight hours and 14,489 takeoffs and landings.
The jet crashed in a rocky, heavily wooded ravine about 10 miles from Pittsburgh International Airport an area of Beaver County best known for producing tough-as-nails steel-workers and such football stars as Tony Dorsett and Mike Ditka.
Firefighters fought their way to the scene through trees and down treacherous terrain, but there was no road to transport heavy vehicles.
The search was called off about two hours after the crash, and the area was sealed off for the night.
Crews began cutting a road into the site at daybreak, and as of midmorning a team was waiting for clearance from investigators to begin the search for remains. Refrigerated trucks waited to bring bodies to a temporary morgue at Beaver County Airport.
A heavy downpour this morning was expected to make removing the remains even more difficult.
With body parts strewn over a wide area, some victims may never be identified, said Beaver County Coroner Wayne Tatalovich.
The plane's tailpiece seems to be the only part intact, said Jim Eichealaub, Hopewell Township emergency services director.
Witnesses said the plane rolled over once or twice and headed nose-down into the ravine.
"I looked up and there it was," said Tom Michel, who was at a gas station near the crash site. "It was just coming straight down. I was screaming for everybody to run. It looked like it was under full power and he just went straight in."
Linda Dickhart, a nearby resident, said the heat and smoke were "so intense you couldn't see anything."
"I thought it was coming in my room," Dickhart said. "Oh my God, I thought it was coming through my roof."
At Pittsburgh International Airport, people who had been waiting to meet passengers from the flight were taken into a private area to meet with counselors.
USAir also was offering counseling at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.
Tom Briercheck, 56, of Pittsburgh, was booked on the doomed flight to return from the International Machine Tools Show in Chicago. BUt he and a friend decided to stop for a few beers.
He was about to board another flight when he heard of the crash. He called home immediately.
"My grandson answered the phone," Briercheck said. "He was crying. And then I could hear him say, 'Hey, Grandma, he's OK. He's OK. He's coming home.'"
The crash was the worst in the United States since Aug. 16, 1987, when a Northwest Airlines MD-80 went down while taking off from Detroit Metropolitan Airport, killing 156 people. A 4-year-old girl was the sole survivor.
In July, a USAir jetliner crashed in a thunderstorm near the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport in North Carolina, killing 37 of the 57 people on board.
Jerry Johnson, a spokesman for Boeing Commercial Airplane Group in Renton, Wash., said the plane that went down was delivered to USAir in October 1987.
Examination of the wreckage showed the engines worked properly until the plane hit the ground. The plane had enough fuel to reach the airport.
There was no evidence of hijacking and no explosion before the crash, said Carl Vogt, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board. Witnesses told investigators they saw no smoke and no parts drop from the plane.
Meanwhile, The Plain Dealer of Cleveland reported today that a computer check of FAA records revealed numerous reports of minor corrosion detected throughout the plane's 7-year history. Also, fuel from a central tank tended to go into a tank on the plane's right side and throw it off balance. The problem was later fixed said the newspaper, which did not provide dates.
"Records are going to be around forever. We've got to get to other things first," NTSB spokesman Michael Benson told the newspaper. He said he did not know whether the fuel problem is related to the crash.
USAir Chairman Seth Schofield said the airline had "no reason to believe there was sabotage."
Vogt said investigators are checking whether birds struck the plane, but there was no evidence that that's what happened.
The crew radioed controllers from six miles away on final approach for landing at the Pittsburgh airport. There was no indication before the crash, when the plane - about 6,000 feet high - apparently rolled to the left in an abnormal way, Vogt said.
The plane dug a crater in a stand of trees and splintered into countless small pieces. Only its tail remained intact.
"Usually when a plane crashes, there's some large section left somewhere, but that didn't happen in this case," said Jim Eichenlaub, Hopewell Township's director of emergency services. "They're all very small pieces."
The amount of blood at the site and the possibility of contracting the AIDS virus forced workers to wear special suits and be decontaminated after leaving the site.
Indiana Gazette Pennsylvania 1994-09-09
Passenger List from Flight 427.
Compiled from USAir, employers, relatives and news organizations.
DAVID GARBER, Westminster, Calif.
WALTER HEILIGENBERG, 56, Del Mar, Calif.
EDWIN VEGA, Bridgeport, Conn.
CHAD MORRIS, Wilmington, Del.
JOHNE BIGELOW-ABBOTT, Orlando, Fla.
ANI ARDHALDJIAN, Chicago.
NAROD ARDHALDJIAN, Chicago.
MARIA DICKERSON, 25, DeKalb, Illinois.
JOSEPH DUFFY, 28, Chicago.
THOMAS D. HARGER, Chicago.
JOAN LAHART, Lisle, Illinois.
ED MAHONEY, Countryside, Illinois.
DAN RUZICH, Des Plaines, Illinois.
SUSAN SCHWENKLER, Addison, Illinois.
JOEL THOMPSON, Oak Park, Illinois.
MICHAEL WILLIAMS, 28, DeKalb, Illinois.
GREG MORFORD, 40, West Des Moines, Ia.
ANTHONY RICH, Cumberland, Maine.
PAULA RICH, (pregnant wife), Cumberland, Maine.
DAVID HUXFORD, 54, Oakland, Maine.
PATRICIA OFFLEY, 46, New Bedford, Mass.
LARRY GRONDIN, 41, Nashua, N.H.
JOHN KUPCHUN, 52, Merrimack, N.H.
LAURIE BAER, 32, Ashville, N.Y.
MARY HAVLIN, New York City.
DAVID WHEELER, South Salem, N.Y.
TODD JOHNSON, Alliance, Oh.
RICK SCHELL, Brunswick, Oh.
WILLIAM AHER, Pittsburgh.
THOMAS ARRIGONI, McMurray, Pa.
MARSHALL BERKMAN, Pittsburgh.
HARRY BERNARD, Pittsburgh.
SCOTT BLAKE, McMurray, Pa.
RON BROWN, Trafford, Pa.
RONALD CALE, Allison Park, Pa.
DANIEL A. CLARK, 61, Hollidaysburg, Pa.
GUY CLEGG, 44, Masontown, Pa.
LAWRENCE COLE, Amity, Pa.
JOHN COOPER, Pittsburgh.
MICHAEL COSSEBOOM, Wexford, Pa.
TIMOTHY DAVIS, Zelienople, Pa.
KAREN DICKSON, Glenwillard, Pa.
JAMES ELLER, New Kensington, Pa.
DWIGHT EVANS, Tunkhannock, Pa.
ROBERT EVANS, Venetia, Pa.
MICHAEL FELGER, McKees Rocks, Pa.
LISA FERM, Pittsburgh.
CHARLES FIANTACA, Picture Rocks, Pa.
KEVIN C. FLAHERTY, 35, Cranberry.
RICHARD GARMHAUSEN, Pittsburgh.
JEFFREY GINGERRICH, Pittsburgh.
LEONARD GRASSO, 41, Monroeville, Pa.
GARY HAPACH, Pittsburgh.
CHARLES HARDOBEY, Pittsburgh.
STEVE HEINTZ, Mars, Pa.
JOY HENDERSON, Pittsburgh.
MELVIN HENRY, 36, Dubois, Pa.
SCOTT HOLDEN, 55, Pittsburgh.
WILL KABBERT, Pittsburgh.
DANIEL KAFCAS, Shaverstown, Pa.
THOMAS KINSEY, North Huntington, Pa.
BERNARD KOCH, Pittsburgh.
CAROLYN KWASNOSKI, Bethlehem, Pa.
DANIEL KWASNOSKI, Bethlehem, Pa.
GERALD R. LINDSTROM, 60, Fox Chapel, Pa.
DAVID LING, Pittsburgh.
KIRK D. LYNN, 26, Greensburg, Pa.
BRUCE MALENKE, 46, Uniontown, Pa.
ROBERT MARCINIAK, State College, Pa.
TIMOTHY McCOY, 27, Orbisonia, Pa.
TIM McILVRIED, Library, Pa.
CHARLES McNAMARA, Sewickley, Pa.
PAUL McSHERRY, Pittsburgh.
WILLIAM I. MENARCHECK, JR., 43, Hopwood, Pa.
DAVID MILRILOVICH, 38, Windber, Pa.
BRIAN NICHOLS, Nanticoke, Pa.
JEFF O'KEEFE, Dowingtown, Pa.
WILLIAM PETERS, Canonsburg, Pa.
JOSE PONCE, McCandless Township, Pa.
EUGENE RAYKIN, Monroeville, Pa.
KEVIN RIMMELL, Carnegie, Pa.
EDWARD RYAN, Cheswick, Pa.
FRANK A. SANTAMARIA, 37, Pittsburgh.
ALAN SEFCIK, 43, North Franklin Township, Pa.
RICHARD SHILLINGER, Pittsburgh.
STEVEN SHORTLEY, Pittsburgh.
ERNEST SMATHERS, Wattsburg, Pa.
ANDREW SOLENSKY, 45, Johnstown, Pa.
JANET S. STAMOS, 40, Munhall, Pa.
THOMAS SZCZUR, 42, Johnstown, Pa.
JOCELYN P. TAYLOR, 35, Pittsburgh, Pa.
BERNIE VARISCO, Tarentum, Pa.
BERNARD WATERS, Pittsburgh.
EARL WEAVER III, 50, Upper St. Clair, Pa.
KATHLEEN WEAVER, Upper St. Clair, Pa.
BRYAN WEAVER, 16, Upper St. Clair, Pa.
LINDSEY WEAVER, 11, Upper St. Clair, Pa.
SCOTT WEAVER, 7, Upper St. Clair, Pa.
LEE WEAVER, Pittsburgh.
DONNA WHITE, 33, Pittsburgh.
EDWIN WILES, 50, Pittsburgh.
CURT YOUNG, Pittsburgh.
MICHELE ZISKA, Bridgeville, Pa.
LANCE SCHELHASS, 20, Corsica, S.D.
DANIEL AVERILL, Katy, Tx.
OVA NIMISHVIREDRA, Houston, Tx.
JOHN T. DICKENS, III, 47, Crozet, Va.
DAVID LAMANCA, 27, Roanoke, Va.
JOHN SPAHR, 49, Appomattox, Va.
RICHARD TALBOT, 61, Blacksburg, Va.
DEWITT WORRELL, Lexington, Va.
STEVE W. WYANT, 38, Charlottesville.
RANDALL DELLEFIELD, 37, Morgantown, W.V.
DENISE JENKINS, 28, Arthurdale, W.V.
JOSEPH KOON, 50, Parkersburg, W.V.
CHARLOTTE LANGAN, Morgantown, W.V.
WILLIAM T. LANGAN, Morgantown, W.V.
MANVILLE MAYFIELD, 68, Morgantown, W.V.
HOLMES WEBB, 52, Morgantown, W.V.
JACK WHITE, 55, St. Albans, W.V.
PAUL OLSON (hometown withheld).
SAM RAMASAMY, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Captain PETER GERMANO, 45, Moorestown, N.J.
First Officer CHARLES B. EMMETT, III, 38, Nassau Bay, Tx.
Flight Attendant STANLEY R. CANTY, 29, Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Flight Attendant APRIL LYNN SLATER, 28, Irving, Tx.
Flight Attendant SARAH ELIZABETH SLOCUM-HAMLEY, 28, Chesapeake, Va.