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.



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

What Happened at Work

It was Friday, May 25th and I was employed in the "Powerhouse" at Brookfield Zoo approximately 12 miles south of the crash site. A group of us were outside the Powerhouse a few minutes past 3:00 PM when we saw a huge plume of black smoke rising to the north. We all knew from the size of the black smoke cloud that there was something terribly wrong. We went inside the Powerhouse and turned on the radio at approximately 3:05 PM and news of the crash was broadcast. We were all stunned at what we heard. None of us did another bit of work the rest of the day which ended at 5:00 PM for us. No one could digest what and why this had happened.

Friend Changed Planes

I had a friend from LA named Dan Pattarson from Hollywood, LA. He bought a round trip ticket from LAX-CHICAGO and was in Chicago when he called me in Los Angeles to ask me if I still felt forboding about that return flight going to crash and burn on take off. I had warned him in Los Angeles at LAX when he bought the ticket that the plane coming back would crash and not be on it. He went on to Chicago and visited and was to return on 191. He changed planes and I met him in Los Angeles at LAX and he was quite shaken up as he heard the news somewhere on the way to LA having several lay overs. David Booth from Cincinnati also had a premonition about a plane going to crash and told the FAA about it. I don't think he had that specific flight 191 American Airlines DC-10 identified. Just a general warning about a DC-10 crashing among tall buildings.

Flt 191

I just discovered this web link and saw your request to email you. I was your father's secretary at Hamilton Standard.

I was there

I was on that plane and then Yahovah moved me to a TWA flight mid air. AA-191 was 911 as was Delta 191. We see 911 sacrifices everywhere.

Mandy Hoskins did you attend

Mandy Hoskins did you attend St Theresa grade school in Palatine?


I just wanted to report that a family of a man on that plane who died in the crash received several million dollars after the crash.

J. Bollinger was James

J. Bollinger was James Bollinger, an employee of Vivitar, on his way to the Santa Monica facility.