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

American Airlines Flight 191 Chicago.jpg Flight 191 Chicago.png Flight 191 crash site.jpg


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.

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.

My father was employed by

My father was employed by American Airlines on that day. He was the Manager of Freight Sales and Service. On that day, company policy dictated that if an accident occurs off the airfield, as this crash did, the freight manager becomes the crash site manager and company liaison with first responders, the media and NTSB.

He has described many sights that he witnessed that day. For some time, he had nightmares and did not sleep well.

He was at the scene for over three days with only one break when he came home, changed his clothes, grabbed a thermos of coffee and heded back to the carnage.

I was working at a K-Mart and saw the black plume of smoke. One of the cashiers was married to a United Airlines pilot and cried for several hours. First because no one knew what airline was involved and second for the crew and passengers who had perished.

This was a dark day, and one I shall remember always.

Flight 191

I was 19 years old and in the U.S.A.F. Home on leave in Manteno.IL.,I had a ticket for AA Flt.191 for that day. My buddies that were stationed overseas in Turkey with me called from Vandenberg A.F.B. in California,our next duty assignment,and ask me to fly out earlier for a big beach party.I exchanged my ticket for a earlier flight.I saved my soul for Rock-n-Roll.

Uncle Ray, I never got to

Uncle Ray,

I never got to meet you, but I'm your niece, Jenica Griego. I just want you to know that you have never been forgotten. Your family still loves and misses you more than you can ever imagine. I know the other victims families do too. You all are loved and until we meet again, take care

your niece

jenica griego