January 13, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Air Florida crash, 25 years later

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the crash of Air Florida Flight 90 into the Potomac River, in blizzard conditions. A total of 78 people died, including four people in cars on the bridge, and five people were rescued. One of the biggest heroes that day in 1982 was Lenny Skutnik, who was hailed by President Reagan during the State of the Union speech soon thereafter. Today's Washington Post recounted the amazing feats of courage of Skutnik -- a decent, modest guy who was uncomfortable with all the praise -- and what has become of him and others. Yesterday's Post described the tragic flight itself, and what caused it. Mostly, it was a failure to ensure proper de-icing. Safety became a prime concern in the airline industry after that.

I worked in Washington back then, and I crossed the Potomac River very close to where the plane wreck had occurred within a half hour or so of when it happened. Ordinarily I took Metro home, but there was a fatal subway accident that forced major delays, so I caught a ride home with my friend Donna Ball. It is hard to describe to sickening sense of horror we felt as we passed all of the emergency vehicles, as rescue efforts were still underway. Several days later on the way into work, I saw the tail section of the Air Florida jet as it was being hoisted out of the water. It was all so surreal. Some of wondered what would happen if a jet ever crashed into the Pentagon...

Speaking of Donna, she has shown some signs of improvement as she gets follow-up treatment for the Wegener's Granulomatosis (see last May), but is now suffering from further complications. She hasn't let that stop her from going back to work, however. We'll keep praying for her to recover.