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.



Roxanne DeYoung

Cheri, I also knew a very pretty Roxanne DeYoung, but near San Francisco in the 1980s. I don't know where she grew up. I've not been able to locate her online, either. I didn't know that a woman by that name had died in this flight.

Passenger List flight 191

J. Bollinger is James O. Bollinger of Vernon Hills, IL

Mr. T. Malone

I believe that Mr. T. Malone was Tim Malone, a student at St. John's School for the Deaf in Milwaukee WI. I didnt know him but my nephew went to the same school.

It was the last day of school and I drove from Chicago to pick up my nephew and bring him home for summer. We were driving west on 290 when I saw a huge plume of smoke to the north and knew that something horrible must have happened. We learned not long after about the plane crash, and then that one of the students from St. John's had been on the plane.

I can't verify the details but we were told that Tim had been given permission to leave school earlier than the other students in order to make this flight, because his dad had tickets to a Dodgers game that evening.

The disaster was horrifying, a tragedy for the loved ones left behind and must have been brutal for those who were first responders. I cannot imagine the terror of being on a plane in such serious trouble. To be a child alone, unable to hear has haunted me ever since the accident.

I pray for their souls, and for the families left behind, that they have somehow found peace.

G. McAtee

Gordon was 27. He was born Dec. 2, 1951.

John Ondreck

If you have time, please email me if you knew my Father...thank you for your time!

G. McAtee, Los Angles was

G. McAtee, Los Angles was Gordon McAtee. He was about 30 years old and on a business trip.

flight 191

Hello,my name is jason j silva I was around 10years old when I lost my brother Michael j Silva to flight 191 now I'm 42 not a day go's by that I'm not thinking about him or what life would have been like with him here.he was 24 when he died he was going to be a doctor that I could remember he just finished school at usc, I never really got to know my brother cause he was away at school a lot so just lik the scar that runs through my heart theres also the _love that flows through for my. Big brother ... I .love you Michael

Don Novelli

My mothers lifetime friend Pat married Don Novelli late in life. The two were insanely happy. Don decided to come home a day early to surprise pat for her birthday... RIP

Changed my ticket to the same flight a day earlier

I was in the Navy and stationed in San Diego , I went home after basic for 2 weeks leave and held a ticket for flight 191 back in the day where ya had a ticket, and a connecting flight to San Deigo, but being a young man I decided to change my ticket and go to L.A. a day earlier for a little fun and and relaxation before I started my naval technical training. I didnt not hear about the accident until i called home when i reached San Diego and was checked into my barracks to let my family know I had arrived safely and was settled, Thats when my mother asked if i heard what happened and i said no. She explained to me what she saw and heard on the news and i was in a sort of state of shock, I should have been on that flight, and now i think which name on this memorial took my place. I know its weird, but i think about it often.

Please add to your list

Eugene Frank Bugajski- Arcadia California
He was on this flight