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.



Kathy Adduci

Hi Mike. I miss your sister too... I dated her when she and I were in High School (she was a sophomore and I was a junior) She was a lot of fun to be with... I was actually scheduled to take that flight and ended up changing my plans and scheduling the flight 1 week later because I could not get off duty from the fire house. We are talking about disasters in class this week (I now teach) and this incident came up yesterday...

AA Flt #191

This tragedy has haunted me for years.
I went through Chicago that very day enroute to LA from Albany, NY.
I was flying back home after visiting relatives upstate.
I came in somewhat earlier at around 11:45 in the a.m. to change planes.
The flight was overbooked and they asked for volunteers to take a later
flight in the afternoon ( Flt #191).
They offered $100 for the inconvienience (not a bad chunk-o-change in '79).
Also a travel voucher for half price on a future AA flight.
I actually thought about it for a moment but decided against it as my bags
were already checked on board.
Three people took up the offer, grabbed their carry-ons, and left the plane.
One of them was right across the aisle from me.
He chuckled and said he had some extra time to kill for $100 and a free flight.
I can still remember his face.
When I got back home to CA. the news of the crash had just broke and I was
stunned when I saw the carnage.
Even moreso when I realized it was the Flt.# 191 .
That could've been my flight....that could've been my fate.

Passenger List

I was a 25 year old secretary to 4 men from Hamilton Standard Division of United Technologies; Richard Lent, Robert Baum, John Ondreck and Norman Braine. They were coming back from a business trip to Windsor Locks, CT. There was a 5th man that decided to take the flight to San Jose instead of going back to LA with them. Robert Baum used to take a regular Monday flight from LA to San Diego. One year earlier he was not on his regular flight. That flight crashed in Cerritos. It was not his time. When I fly into Chicago now for business I think of them and that awful day. Years later my next door neighbor was on the Lockerbie Scotland flight. Then 6 years ago I lost my close friend in a helicopter crash. Needless to say flying is not my favorite thing to do.

Kathy Adduci

Mike Adduci-
I knew your sister well. I worked with her at J&J. I can't tell you how much I miss her. I go by Holy Sep. often.

Complete information about the passengers of this flight

The man listed as R. Spicuzza was my boss Robert Spicuzza. He was married to a beautiful woman and had two children. I believe they lived in Playa Del Rey. I think he worked for CNA Insurance company at the time, and he had previously worked for Mercury Casualty. He and Joe Schmidt had left Industrial to go to CNA and I missed him dearly because he was the kindest most reasonable boss I had ever met. I had heard Joe and Bob had traded tickets because Joe wanted to go home early and Bob traded him. I think I heard that at the Funeral for Bob. I remember waking up abruptly the morning of the crash and looking at my husband and I said "Bob is dead". We went to the front porch and I said to my husband to go get the paper, but we didn't have paper delivery. There was one on the front porch. I turned right to that article. I called my friend and former boss Joanie McDonough and told her what I had read. We both cried. He was a great man. I don't know whatever happened to his wife or kids, but I have prayed for them over the years. The children would be adults now. They were little then.

My fondest memory of Bob was when I was at the beach at Playa Del Rey one day, and I had just finished my work appointments for the day and decided to take my school books to the beach and study for a test. As I was leaving the beach, he was coming onto the beach. I thought I would be in trouble for not being out working, but he just smiled and said something kind, and never mentioned it otherwise. His children were with him too. I thought, wow, what a cool boss.

Rest in Peace, Bob, you are not forgotten.

I bet it

I bet it is...........................I am so sorry for your loss. Those people that say "time will heal" are so wrong.

AA Flight 191 Crash

I remember being at work when I heard about this awful tragedy. Later there was a man being interviewed and he said he had given up his place to a very pretty, young woman that was suppose to be out in L.A. that day. It seems like she was going on a modeling assignment or something like that. The next day, they had a list of the dead in the Detroit News and I saw a Ms.R. DeYoung. I use to have a real good friend, Roxanne DeYoung that moved away from our Detroit suburb to Cherry Hill, NJ and the last I saw her we were 16 or so. She was very pretty and started modeling that is what I had heard a few years later, after High School. I have tried to find out if this was in fact Roxanne that died in the crash. I was terribly upset thinking about that and as time has gone on, every now and then something reminds me of this. I had a very close encounter myself, taking a different flight, only to have the one I might have been on crash. I was just wondering if you can suggest a way for me to find out more. I have tried searches on the internet. I know I have not been able to find Roxanne DeYoung alive, say on Facebook, ReUnion, those sites or people searches. I haven't had any results with death records either. Anyways, thanks for reading and I think you have done a wonderful job here of updating and preserving the victims stories. It was a very sad and terrible accident.

my cousin.

My cousin, Nigel Hawkins was a passenger on this flight - He was in Chicago for a conference, and was living in Los Angeles. His mate who was attending the conference with him, gave him the flight back, knowing it was his birthday the next day, and knew Nigel would have liked to have been with his wife and son. His mate drove back.

Nigel never made it.

I can still remember to this day, my mother and father driving from Victoria Australia to Queensland Australia, to tell me personally that Nigel had died. - There is an hour of my life I can never account for.

miss you heaps cousin... you were my hero.

Complete Name Information

G. McAtee should be listed as Gordon McAtee, Santa Barbara, CA.

K. Lamb is Kenneth Lamb and A. Zvanut is Al Zvanut

It's as sad today as it was 31 years ago.