Chicago, IL Jumbo Jet Crashes On Take Off, May 1979

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An American Airlines DC-10 jumbo jet bound for Los Angeles from Chicago crashed moments after takeoff Friday from O'Hare Airport, killing all 272 persons on board and perhaps two more on the ground in the worst air disaster in U.S. history.
The jetliner, Flight 191, was filled with Memorial Day holiday travelers and a number of publishers and three Playboy magazine editors enroute to a West Coast convention. It crashed into a field near Elmhurst Road and Touhy Avenue and exploded on impact just east of a mobile home park and only 500 yards from the huge Standard Oil Co. petroleum tank farm in Elk Grove Township.
The plane, scheduled for departure at 2:45 p.m., took off under cloudless skies and apparently lost its left engine upon takeoff, banking uncontrollably as it attempted to gain altitude, eyewitnesses said. The craft rolled over and crashed nose down into the field, bursting into a ball of flame and sending a wave of intense heat, fire and smoke shooting into the air.
An FAA spokesman said the plane reached an altitude of 500 to 600 feet before plummeting into a dive. The plane's landing gear was still down when it crashed.
The tremor was felt as far as a mile away. Debris and bodies from the wreckage were strewn a quarter-mile around the impact site where the jumbo jet virtually disintegrated.
Cook County Sheriff's Police spokeswoman BETSY BARSTEAD said two persons were believed to be killed in a nearby construction hut, but firefighters were not immediately able to extract the victims. Their identities were not known.
The crash is the worst aviation disaster in the nation's history, surpassing the crash eight months ago in San Diego when a PSA jetliner collided with a private plane, killing 151 persons.
Firefighters, police and emergency vehicles from Chicago and surrounding suburbs arrived on the scene and began evacuating residents of the Touhy Mobile Home park only yards from the burning wreckage. Three trailers caught fire after being hit by burning metal parts and several businesses operating near and in the field were demolished, including an airplane parts warehouse and a construction hut owned by Courtney-Velo Excavating Co., where two more bodies were found. One of the victims in the hut was believed to be an employee of the company.
Two other company employees were badly burned when fuel from the DC-10 showered onto the old airplane hangar where they were working. They are ANDREW S. BELLAVIA, 46, of 387 S. Jeffrey Ln., Wheeling, and RICHARD MASKERI, 28, of 1510 N. Valley Lake Dr., Schaumburg.
Another man in the building escaped without injury.
BELLAVIA, with burns over more than 50 percent of his body, was taken to the Loyola Medical Center burn unit in Maywood where he is in serious condition. MASKERI was admitted to Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village where he was listed in good condition.
"It could have been even worse," Elk Grove Village Fire Lt. R. L. HOHMAN said. "If that plane had hit those gasoline storage tanks, we would have had a fire that would have burned for three or four days and destroyed this whole area.
The powerful explosion ripped the jet apart and dismembered most of the victims. Crash investigators pushed hundreds of wooden stakes into the ground to mark the locations of arms, legs and torsos.



David Booth plane premonition

I heard that David Booth , the guy who had a series of bad dreams in May 1979 about an AA plane flying sideways and crashing after take off, was in the Univ. TN Hospital in Knoxville, TN a few years ago with heart trouble. Seems he later died from it. He and his wife were living somewhere near Knoxville, TN and The Great Smoky Mtns. National Park. He never had the specifics as to which plane or city it was where this plane crash dream was supposed to happen. I regret to this day of not telling anyone else but my friend not to be on that plane. Not many people are ever really certain about psychic visions, dreams and so forth to take it upon themselves to call the Airlines or the FAA. But evidently David Booth from Cincinnati, OH did several times. This whole event and the aftermath is like something out of The Twilight Zone to me.

I was only 10 years old but

I was only 10 years old but this was on our newspaper headlines in Texas, and I remember being horrified at the photo of the DC-10 almost upside down in midair. We see stuff like that on the Internet all the time thanks to Photoshop, but back then, that was a very haunting image. I think it was a huge reason the crash hit Americans particularly hard back then.

I didn't see the crash on TV. The only thing I remember about that week was tons of rain in Texas, and the Indy 500 being on TV just two days after the crash.

It's terrible that so many things went wrong and that corners were being cut in the AA maintenance department, but fortunately it appears a lot of good came out of that crash, and during the 1980s and early 1990s the FAA started taking its job very seriously.


They deserved every dime. That plane was serviced just 3 months prior MD effed up, costing people's death way too soon.

Your Dad

I and my family appreciates what your Dad did. He's alive. My family lost an amazing mother, sister, daughter, aunt and so many other things! My Aunt Carol was a Flight Attendant and died with everyone else. She left behind two small children (back then) 7 & 9. No longer had a Mom. Grateful for what your Dad did. Missing Carol M. Ohm all the time.

American Airlines May 251979 Crash

I was working At Arthur's Restaurant on Mt, Prospect Rd! The Plane Crashed and My Co Worker got a Phone Call from Her Husband who worked at AA Airlines and SAID ARE YOU OK?? THAT PLANE WENT OUT DEFECTIVE! HE KNEW BEFORE THE EXPERTS FOUND OUT! WOW!!!!

American Airlines Flight 191

One of the victims of Flight 191 Stephen or as my family knew him Steve Blake was a neighbor who lived a few houses down & across the street in North Hollywood Calif. about 20 minutes from downtown Los Angeles. A middle class neighborhood where we knew many of our neighbors & are still friends with some, though we all have moved from there. We moved to our home in 1958, I was 4. It was unusual in the early 1960s to have a single working mother, & that was Steves situation. They had one of the nicer houses on our street. I think Steves mom worked for a car dealership, she was pretty, always dressed well & drove nice cars. I'm not positive of Steves age, I'd say late 20s, early 30s in 1979 & as far as I remember single. Because he didnt go to the same schools as me or my 3 brothers he was a neighbor we knew but more of an acquaintance than close friend. He & his mother were very close, he was an only child. When I heard he was a victim of this tragedy I immediately thought of his mother losing her only child. I can still picture Steve & his mom, we had sold our home by 1979 though still had friends living there, I don't remember if his mom moved or how she handled her grief. Thank you for this site, everyone on that airliner were more than names on a list.

FLY 191

He was a wonderful, talented, charming man. There was more than one of us that planned to be Mrs. McAtee. I was his Berkeley era girlfriend. I miss him dearly even after nearly 40 years.

Flight 191 American Airlines overbooked flight

In regards to the young male passenger who was sitting across from you who take the offer to take the later flight (191). You stated you would never forget his face. Could you describe what he looked like. My brother was on that flight (191) on standby. My brother was only 22yrs with dark hair and about 5'6 . He was in the marine corp. I always wonder about the hours before he was killed.

Additional Name

I was reading Studs Terkel's, "American Dreams: Lost and Found," and he interviewed a Mildred Olmstead in one section. In a footnote at the end of her narrative, he noted that she was killed in the crash of American Airlines Flight 191 in Chicago. I wonder if her name had been changed for the book or if this is an oversight in the compiling of crash victims?

David Booth deceased

Several years ago I heard that David Booth, the guy who had the premonition of an American Airlines DC-10 plane crashing in a sequence of dreams, has died here in the Knoxville, TN area. I read that he was in the Univ. TN Hospital a few years ago with heart trouble and later died from it. He and his wife weren't living in Knoxville, but somewhere in Sevier County near the Great Smokies Nat'l Park. I never spoke to him but wanted to meet with him and discuss our similar visions and dreams of the Flight 191 crash.