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.



Eugene Frank Bugajski-

Eugene Frank Bugajski- Arcadia California

Correct Name

M. Kamhi should be Marc Kamhi

I Knew Two Passengers...

I was almost 13 years old in 1979, and two passengers (A. Tramell and A. Bryson) attended the same church as my family in the Los Angeles area.

Seeing this tragedy unfold on the news was very tough for me. I remember not being able to sleep that night. I was friends with Mr. Bryson's daughter, and felt like I was fairly familiar with him as well. It was strange to know someone at church one day, then hear that they were gone the next day. Very horrible circumstances.

May these passengers and crew members' memory be kept alive forever! Flight 191 - O'Hare. Rest in Peace

Flight 191

Both of my parents were on this flight.
K. Alan Green and Judy Green

An addition to the Flight 191 Passenger List

Jolene Pluta was also a victim of the Flight 191 crash. A fellow student at Iowa State University, Jolene was an incredibly talented fashion design student, and originally a Maine South High School graduate. I can only surmise Jolene was just beginning her professional career at the time of her passing... my sincere condolences to her family.

Correct spelling for one of the passengers

Mr. J. Marcus should be changed to Mr. J. Markus (with a "k")

Thanks! Want to make sure his name is spelled correctly on the upcoming Memorial this Fall.

Well. it is now 32 years

Well. it is now 32 years since the worst air disaster in American history occurred. (not related to terrorism)
I am still baffled as to why there is no memorial honoring the victims who were lost. Every other air disaster
has some sort of monument for loved ones to visit. There is nothing to at least recognize this even even occurred. American Airlines should be
ashamed for pushing this disaster under the carpet.
Why don't they just man up and do something already?

Hello and thank you for

Hello and thank you for creating this site. Is there a place where anyone can view pictures of the victims? Thank you again.

R. DeYoung

Dear Cheri B.

My father was on flight 191; every May I scan the internet for new information on the crash and found this site. For some reason and perhaps because there are so many portals of information on these crashes, I missed this one. I have almost every piece of paper, journalistic research, archives, depositions, and information regarding legal issues surrounding this crash boxed up in my basement. In the next week I will take out the boxes of saved information and look at the full list that we demanded but had to pry out of American Airlines. It has proper first, middle, last names, addresses, place of busness, etc. Everything was a struggle with American Airlines and we knew from the beginning that something wasn't didn't take a rocket scientist to know a phylon and engine don't just fall off due to a loose bolt.

The one thing I find missing on so many of these sites is the horrible onslaught of misery and defeat, of the depression, anamosity, and greed associated with American Airlines and what they did to so many people in not telling the truth of skipping proper safety maintance proceedures. As I understand it, there was one more victim in all this...the man who worked for American Airlines who was to testify before the committee on exactly who told whom to skip a vital, important, part of the maintanence check, who committed suicide the night before he was to appear in count. This was told to me by an American Airlines employee but can't seem to verify it...I think it is, 99 percent accurate but AA is still, STILL not easily releasing any of that information, even to direct family members of those, who certainly knew for 20 to 40 long seconds when and how they were going to die. I pray every evening that my father and those around him went into shock. We were victims all over again as soon as lawyers started calling pretending to be golf buddies with our father. Thank you to those keeping alive the memory of those who perished, though the work and research you do. God bless and if I can find anything on your friend, I will write back to you. Genuinely, Mandy Hoskins

Bob Aeschbacher

Bob was not a pax but an American pilot who was getting a hop out to LA. Supposedly got on at the last minute and took the last seat. Had flown with him and had lunch a few days before. He was a nice guy...too bad.