An Air Canada plane is shown landing at Pearson Airport in Toronto on February 13, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
I’ve flown on planes many times before.
Having embarked on planes across Canada and to three other countries in the world, I’m all too familiar with the routine. I’ve flown across land-locked areas. I’ve flown across oceans. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve never been in an airplane disaster. I realize they do happen, but that knowledge isn’t going to stop me from getting on a plane again. You can’t live in fear.
But these tragedies do happen and when they do we need to pay proper homage and respect to the families and friends of those who died and to those who survived. We can’t forget about major tragedies or we have lost contact with what makes us human.
Exactly 26 years ago today, Aug. 16, 1987, the Northwest Airlines plane McDonnel Douglas DC-9-82 Flight 255 left Saginaw for Detroit, Phoenix and Santa Ana, according to the Aviation Safety Network website. The plane arrived in Detroit at 7:42 p.m. and Detroit departure was delayed. At 8:42 p.m. the plane was told to go into position on runway 3C and hold.
Two minutes later the plane was cleared for take off, but not long after rotation, the stall warning came on.
“The aircraft rolled left and right and the left wing struck a light pole in a car rental lot. Flight 255 continued to roll to the left, continued across the car lot, struck a light pole in a second rental car lot and struck the side wall of the roof in a 90 (degree) left wing down attitude,” the website said.
“The plane was still rolling to the left when it impacted the ground on a road outside the airport boundary and continued to slide along the road, striking a railroad embankment, disintegrating and bursting into flames.”
The website said the probable cause was the crew’s failure to “use the taxi checklist to ensure that the flaps and slats were extended for take-off.” For reasons unknown there was also absence of electrical power to the plane take-off warning system.
An article on Mail Online said 156 people died in the disaster, including two on the ground, and it is considered “one of the deadliest air disasters in U.S. history.” Four-year-old Cecelia Cichan was the sole survivor of the crash with serious injuries such as a “fractured skull, broken leg and collarbone and third-degree burns,” the article said. She had four skin grafts to treat the burns on her arms and legs.
“It was believed that Cecelia survived the crash because her mother shielded her with her own body,” the article said. “Her mother, Paula, father Michael and brother, David, six were among those killed as the family returned from their vacation.”
Firefighter John Thiede pulled her from the wreckage after hearing a “faint cry a baby doll makes,” he said in the article.
The story is heartbreaking. It doesn’t matter where you live. People fly on planes often, never anticipating something to go horribly wrong, but accidents happen and lives are lost and forever changed.
The story of the tragedy should be something we respect and recall to keep compassion alive. It should also be a reminder to everyone to be vigilant in making sure to the best of our ability we don’t overlook something that could cause a tragedy.
Accidents happen. Oftentimes there is nothing we can do about it.
So we need to remember, have understanding for those involved and affected and live our lives the best we can each day.
Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.