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.



Ms. De Young

Name was Rhonda, I believe she was one of three gals ( Aducci, and Di Castro)' going to Hawaii as a graduation present.

P. Schade with group of 3 victims info and names missing?

P. Schade was Dr Schade and was a family friend and neighbor of ours. Included on this trip with him was daughter Margie, 9, his wife Zyda, and another younger daughter who I can find out her name if interested. They all lived in Naperville IL at the time. Heartbreaking. An entire family perished on this flight.

AA flight 191 name edit - DeVerrier

The passenger cited as "(no first name) DEVERRIER" was Jean-Claude DeVerrier, a personal and family friend. He was survived by his wife and two children. Jean-Claude was a French national with whom we associated while they lived in New Zealand. I was 14 at the time and in public school when we received the shocking news.
- Jay

Flight #191 Chicago

A long time family friend of ours was killed in this plane crash. His name was Thomas Koneski, he worked for Yamaha Music Co. From what I remember he was there for business and one of his meetings was cancelled, so he took an earlier flight home. My mother and his mother were life long friends since they were neighbors of ours in Irwin Pa. My mother took it very hard...our whole family did. He was a wonderful man and a fantastic trumpet player. He left a beautiful wife and children in California.

ms. deyoung

hi i just saw your comment here about a girl named deyoung headed for some modeling job in california

a blurred photo of a 'rhonda ( not roxanne ) deyoung ', presumably the person you thought might be a former friend, is shown on one of the photos of the facebook coverage of the october 2011 memorial.

chicago flt 191 A Neighbor Remembered

My neighbor George passed in this crash. It's been so long but I have remembered him thru the years. I think he had gone to Chicago on business. We lived on Achilles Dr, a beautiful area called Mt Olympus in the Hollywood Hills overlooking Los Angeles. He was the nicest gentleman, very happy caring type of personality including a wonderful sense of humor & great laugh. My husband and I so liked him and his beautiful wife. A loving and classy couple ..he in his forties. He loved keeping his car clean n shiny. handsome with silver grey hair. We were going to have a bbq for the holiday weekend coming up. We were devastated as his family, I'm sure...I regret not offering more of my friendship to his widow...I was a young mother pregnant w a 1yrold. Our husbands were both named George. My George passed several years later in 84...may they be friends in heaven...I send my love and prayers to the two George's. GOD BLESS

Man with a Flight 191 ticket but missed the flight anb lived

Early in my career I attended an IBM computer programming school in Chicago. As I was riding from the airport to my hotel on a bus I got into a conversation with a man sitting next to me. I mentioned to him that I had almost missed getting on my flight to Chicago and how upsetting that would have been had I missed the plane.
He brushed off my concern by telling me an experience that he had the previous year. He explained that he was supposed be at a meeting in another city in order to close a two million dollar business deal and had to be on a specific flight in order to make it on time for his meeting. On May 25th, 1979, as he was driving to Chicago O’Hare airport, he was delayed in traffic and was running late. As he arrived at the airport, still in hopes of making his flight, to save time he pulled up in front of the airport and abandon his car in the lane even though he knew it would be towed away.
He then ran through the airport to the gate and saw that the plane was still next to the jet way but the plane’s door had already been closed in order to leave at the scheduled time of 2:45. The gate attendant who checks passenger tickets as they board the plane was standing nearby. He told her of his plight, the two million dollar deal, but to no avail. At first he plead with her, then begged her, then threw an angry fit to get her to make the plane reopen its door. She stubbornly refused his demands and told him he could take later flight but she was not going to stop this flight. He knew it was hopeless but decided to catch another flight the next morning. Since he lived some distance from the airport, and by then his car had been towed away, he decided to stay overnight in the airport’s hotel. He lugged all his baggage to the hotel, checked in, and went to his room. Entering the room he threw his bags on the bed, switched on the TV and went into the bathroom to wash all the sweat off his face and body.
As he was washing his face he heard a special news flash break into the normal broadcast stating that American Airlines O’Hare Airport Flight 191 had just crashed within a minute of takeoff. He frantically searched his suitcase for his plane ticket and read his flight number, “American Airlines Flight 191”.
Stunned, he ran back to the airport to find the gate attendant that had refused to let him on the doomed plane. When he found the gate attendant he hugged her, and thanked her, and hugged her again, and thanked her again and again.
He said that experience changed his life. He wondered why he had been so dramatically spared and was now trying to do all he could to fulfill his purpose in life.

I met the man over 30 years ago and this is my best recollection of what he said about his Flight 191 experience. I don't recall his name but hope that if he sees this post he will tell his story.

Ground Victim

John Wayne Craig was one of the ground victims.

More info on Gordon's death

Gordon was a close friend when we were both students at the University of California Santa Barbara 1970-1974. He lived at my family's home in San Juan Capistrano during the summer of 1971 when we bothed worked at the Hobie Cat factory. Late that summer we went on a trip to the San Juan Islands NE of Puget Sound. There he met Cindy a friend of our family. Gordon graduated with a degree in civil engineering and worked on the Alaskan pipeline project. I believe he was visiting Cindy in Chicago on the trip that ended in his death. Cindy was working in Chicago as a social worker. Sadly, shortly after the accident she committed suicide. Her father had also died earlier that year. This is the sadest story that I know.

F. Jannis

The last name should be spelled Janis. I was friends with his daughters in grade school.