Romulus MI Jet Crash Kills Over 150, Aug 1987
IT 'CRUMBLED LIKE PIECE OF PAPER'
DETROIT JET TOLL AT 154.
By Geoffrey Haynes
Romulus, Mich. (AP) -- A jetliner plunged in flames to the ground just after takeoff and "crumbled like a piece of paper" as it smashed through freeway bridges, killing 154 people in the nation's second-worst crash, authorities said.
A Northwest spokesman said officials believed a 4-year-old girl hospitalized Sunday night after the crash of Northwest Airlines Flight 255 might have been a surviving passenger. At least six people on the ground were injured.
The McDonnell Douglas MD-80, an updated version of the DC-9, had arrived from Saginaw and was en route to Phoenix and suburban Los Angeles. It crashed in clear weather at 8:46 p.m., moments after taking off from Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
It was the first major commercial plane crash in the United States in almost a year, and the firsts involving a domestic carrier in almost two years.
MICHAEL MOORE, 14, who was standing near the Avis building, said today he saw an "orange glow, like on fire behind the building. And the glare is what made me look."
MOORE told ABC's "Good Morning America" that the orange glow was "around the engines, in the back, covering the engines."
FBI agents were sent to the scene basedon a report that there might have been an explosion before the crash, said JOHN ANTHONY, an FBI spokesman in Detroit. The agents would check for any sign of a bomb, he said.
The jetliner rocked side to side and plunged to the ground trailing fire before skidding beneath an Interstate 94 overpass and breaking into dozens of burning pieces on Middlebelt Road, bordering the airport, witnesses said.
"It looks like a large bomb fell of Middlebelt Road," said Wayne County Executive ED McNAMARA.
"When it hit the ground it just crumbled like a piece of paper," JOEL TAYLOR, a motorist, told Cable News Network.
The plane, he said, exploded as soon as it hit the ground.
"There was a ball of fire under the bridge," TAYLOR said.
"The entire Northwest family of more than 34,000 employees is stunned by this tragic loss," said Northwest Airlines chariman and chief executive officer STEVEN G. ROTHMEIER in a statement released today. "With our condolences, we have extended to the families a commitment for every possible assistance."
A wing clipped an Avis rental car building, then the plane slid underneath a railroad trestle, continued through the eastbound and westbound bridges of I-94 onto Middlebelt Road, which adjoins the airport on the east, McNAMARA said.
One engine came to rest under one of the bridges and wreckage was strewn a half mile on Middlebelt Road, he said.
Other wereckage landed on I-94, a six-lane east-west freeway north of the airport. The highway links Detroit and Chicago and is often crowded Sunday nights with motorists returning from the western part of the state.
"There's a lot of yellow sheets (at the crash site) covering what appears to be bodies," he said.
A morgue was set up at the airport, McNAMARA said.
Aboard the plane were 147 passengers, including two infants being held on laps, and six crew members, said BOB GIBBONS, a Northwest spokesman in Minneapolis.
A motorist and a passenger in the vehicle were killed, said a deputy sheriff who refused to give his name.
Among those injured were a 4-year-old girl and a man believed in his 30s, who were both in critical condition today at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, said hospital spkeswoman, CATHERINE CURETON.
There were conflicting reports whether the girl had been on the plane.
CURETON sais the girl had been on the ground.
However, three people who identified themselves as relatives of the girl said she was on the plane, said Monsignor WILLIAM RALPH HARVEY, retired pastor of Our Lady Queen of Angles Roman Catholic Church in Newport Beach, Calif. HARVEY was among the clergy who comforted relatives of passengers at a sheriff's station near the filght's ultimate destination, John Wayne Airport in suburban Los Angeles.
"There are no survivors that we know of other than the possibility of the youngster," said Northwest's GIBBONS.
JERRY LINTON, Federal Aviation Administration tower chief, said taped conversations between controllers and Fllight 255 crew have not been reviewed. Controllers witnessed the crash but LINTON gave no further details.
The jet's "black box," the flight data recorder, has been recovered, officials said.
"Shortly after it was airborne, there were reports that the plane began banking to the left and banking to the right," said DON ZOCHERT, an FAA spokesman in Chicago.
KAREN POINTON, 22, of Romulus, said she and her fiance watched the plane crash about 1,500 feet from the back yard of her home.
"All you could see was the street glitter with flames," she said. "We saw a big ball of yellow flames roll down the street."
In Washington, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board said an investigator from the NTSB's field office in Chicago was en route to the accident and an investigation "go-team" would be arriving today.
Authorities said they were having trouble securing the widespread crash scene for investigators and that some people were taking away debris.
The airport was closed for 30 minutes after the crash.
Passengers flying into the airport after 1 a.m. today were met by anxious relatives or hurried to telephones. The airport was subdued, but busy, and operations continued without much change.
Detroit Edison said between 1,500 and 2,000 homes and businesses were without electricity in the area near the airport. State police closed eastbound I-94 and I-275 near the airport following the crash.
The MD-80 is a narrow-body jet manufactured by a subsidiary of McDonnell Douglas, a fuel-efficient, twin-jet derivative of the DC-9.
The airports last fatal crash was March 4, when a Northwest Airlink commuter plane lost power while landing and crashed and burned, killing nine people.
Sunday's crash was the first major commercial plane crash in the United States since Aug. 31, 1986, when an Aeromexico DC-9 collided with a small plane over a Los Angeles suburb.
The last previous major crash involving an American domestic carrier took place on Sept. 8, 1985, when a Midwest Express Airlines DC-9 lost power in its right engine and crashed after taking off from Milwaukee's airport, killing 31 people.
On July 9, 1982, a Pan Am 727 jetliner crashed on takeoff from New Orleans International Airport, killing 153 people.
The nation's deadliest crash took place on May 25, 1979, when American Airlines DC-10 crashed after takeoff at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, killing 275 people.
Listing of Fatalities on Northwest Airlines Flight 255, Romulus, Michigan, on August 16, 1987
Capt. JOHN R. MAUS, 57, Las Vegas, Nevada.
First Officer DAVID J. DODDS, 35, Galena, Illinois.
Flight attendant MICHAEL L. KAHLE, 34, LeSueur, Minnesota.
Flight attendant ROBERTA E. RADEMACHER, 35, Eagan, Minnesota.
Flight attendant BRUCE R. ELFERING, 23, Eagan, Minnesota.
Flight attendant PAMELA O. SPARKS-SHAFFER, 36, Chandler, Arizona.
WILLIAM A. ACKER, 34, Phoenix.
GEORGE AMABILE, Phoenix.
JAMIE AMABILE, Phoenix.
MILDRED AVEDISIAN, 52, Tucson, Ariz.
ANTHONY BAGNATO, 50, Scottsdale, Ariz.
JAN BAGNATO, 50, Scottsdale, Ariz.
TOM V. BARBERIO, 24, Lansing, Mich.
DONALD W. BECK, Phoenix.
KENNETH A. BELL, 28, Canton, Mich.
WILLIAM M. BEST, 36, Phoenix.
KATHRYN BEST, 32, Phoenix.
WILLIAM BEST, JR., 5, Phoenix.
HILLARY BEST, 3, Phoenix.
KATELYN BEST, 4 months, Phoenix.
BURKE BIRD, 32, Phoenix.
SOUMITRA BISWAS, 30, Morristown, N. J.
WILLIAM C. BLAKELY, 41, Phoenix.
HERBERT BRANTLEY, 26, Phoenix.
DONALD BRIGGS, 43, Scottsdale, Ariz.
MATTHEW BRIGGS, 13, Scottsdale, Ariz.
MEGAN BRIGGS, 8, Scottsdale, Ariz.
SHARON BRIGGS, 42, Scottsdale, Ariz.
STEVE BROSNAN, 27, Chandler, Ariz.
HARRY BROWN, Canton, Mich.
TIMOTHY L. BUCK, 28, Tucson, Ariz.
RYAN BUCK, 5, Tucson, Ariz.
JAMES R. BURNETT, 64, Okemos, Mich.
RHETT TAYLOR BUSHONG, 19, Mission Viejo, Calif.
DONALD BYELICH, 46, Chandler, Ariz.
SUSAN BYELICH, 48, Chandler, Ariz.
MICHAEL BYELICH, 16, Chandler, Ariz.
BRADLEY BYELICH, 14, Chandler, Ariz.
JOHN CARTER, Phoenix.
MICHAEL CICHAN, 32, Tempe, Ariz.
PAUL CICHAN, 33, Tempe, Ariz.
DAVID CICHAN, 6, Tempe, Ariz.
SUSIE CODY, Tempe, Ariz.
JENNIFER CODY, 15, Tempe, Ariz.
CAROLYN COHEN, 25, Phoenix.
Capt. JEROME D. COOK, 48, Phoenix, off-duty Northwest employee.
J. CATHIE CORONA, 44, St. Clair Shores, Mich.
JUDY DAVIS, 50, Tempe, Ariz.
KURT DOBRONSKI, 28, Scottsdale, Ariz.
JULIE DONZALSKI, 25, Phoenix.
JOANN DOWNS, 33, Phoenix.
LEWIS DRESCH, 45, Sterling Heights, Mich.
CHARLES ENGLERT, 27, Tucson, Ariz.
KAREN ENGLERT, 28, Tucson, Ariz.
CHARLES ENGLERT, JR., 14 months, Tucson, Ariz.
GREGG FILES, 35, Chandler, Ariz.
PETER FRANK, age and hometown unknown.
ROBERT GAINES, Rochester Hills, Mich.
SANDE GARRIOTT, Phoenix.
ELIZABETH GEIGER, 7, Phoenix.
EMILY GEIGER, 13, Phoenix.
ROBERT GEIGER, 39, Phoenix.
LAUREN GEIGER, Gilbert, Ariz.
LISA GEIGER, Gilbert, Ariz.
RONALD GEIGER, Gilbert, Ariz.
VALERIE GEIGER, Gilbert, Ariz.
JUDY GLAZER, Phoenix.
JOSHUA GLAZER, Phoenix.
PATRICK GLEASON, 49, Utica, Mich.
MURRAY H. GOLDSTEIN, 43, Cranford, N. J.
TOBY GREENE, 40, Tucson, Ariz.
KITTY GREENE, 11, Tucson, Ariz.
LINDA GRIGG, 40, Phoenix.
KAIL GRIGG, 39, Phoenix.
RICHARD ALLEN GRUICI, Phoenix.
GLENN HAAS, 31, Phoenix.
DOUGLAS A HAGLER, 31, of Burton, Mich.
CRAIG HALE, 30, Peoria, Ariz.
KIMBERLY HALE, 30, Peoria, Ariz.
MARY HENRY, Scottsdale, Ariz.
TRAVIS HENRY, Scottsdale, Ariz.
H. SCOTT HINES, 28, Phoenix.
Army Lt. CHRISTINE HOFFMAN, 23, El Paso, Texas.
CRAIG HOFFMAN, Phoenix.
RANDY HOFFMAN, 24, Prescott, Ariz.
CYNTHIA HORTON, 37, Phoenix.
KEVIN INSALACO, 27, Niagara Falls, N. Y.
MARSHALL JOHNSON, 31, Phoenix.
BARBARA KAROW, 39, Phoenix.
JUSTIN KEENER, 12, Scottsdale, Ariz.
GARY KIMMEL, 34, Fenton, Mich.
DONALD KLAFT, Phoenix.
LISA KLAFT, Phoenix.
MARY JANE KRNACK, 62, Clarence, N. Y.
HOLLINS O. LANGTON, 26, Phoenix.
JANINE MARTIN, 28, Tempe, Ariz.
ERNEST JOHN MATHEWS, 38, Sterling Heights, Mich.
ERIC MAZADE, 30, Grosse Pointe Park, Mich.
MATTHEW McLAUGHLIN, 29, Mesa, Ariz.
DANIEL MICKELSON, 18, Scottsdale, Ariz.
WAYNE MICKELSON, Scottsdale, Ariz.
TERRY J. MISENER, 40, Tucson, Ariz.
SUZANNE MORRIS, 35, Federal Way, Wash, offduty Northwest flight
WILLIAM KIRK MURDY, 22, Jackson, Mich.
ARLENE NELSON, Detroit.
DEBRA O'CONNELL, 24, Phoenix.
MICHAEL M. PEACOCK, 39, Phoenix.
RICHARD PFISTER, Phoenix.
DeANNA PRESTI, 15, Mesa, Ariz.
DAN PURSLEY, 28, Phoenix.
KAREN PURSLEY, 26, Phoenix.
HIDI RATLIFF, 16, Santa Ana, Calif.
VIRGINIA ROBINSON, 45, Fountain Valley, Calif.
KEITH ROGERS, Tempe, Ariz.
Capt. MELVIN C. ROUNDY, 53, Mesa, Ariz., offduty Northwest employee.
JOHN J. ROSS, Phoenix.
LOUIS SCARSELETTA, 30, Lockport, N. Y.
CARL A. SCHERER, 58, Clarence Center, N. Y.
MARY SCOTT, Ahwatukee, Ariz.
SAM SCOTT, 9, Ahwatukee, Ariz.
PATRICIA A. SHERO, 53, Davison, Mich.
LARRY SILLS, Paradise Valley, Ariz.
THOMAS L. SPARK, 32, Lockport, N. Y.
STUART L. STONER, Bloomfield, Mich.
JAY STRAUSBAUGH, 29, Sterling Heights, Mich.
MICHAEL SULLIVAN, 27, Phoenix.
JOANNE SUROWITZ, 18, Tustin, Calif.
PAT TALLARICO, 24, Lansing, Mich.
M. JANE TANFIELD, Tempe, Ariz.
JEANNA TAWZER, Scottsdale, Ariz.
DOUG THOMPSON, Scottsdale, Ariz.
NELL THOMPSON, Scottsdale, Ariz.
ERICA THOMSEN, 61, Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
LAURA THORELL, 28, Glendale, Ariz.
LARRY THORELL, GLendale, Ariz.
KRISTA THORELL, 1, Glendale, Ariz.
LISA TOMBASCO, Laguna Hills, Calif.
RAFAEL TOMBASCO, Laguna Hills, Calif.
JAMES TUCK, 44, Detroit.
BENJAMIN DANIEL TURNER, 18, Mesa, Ariz.
SUZANNE KOLARICK UNDERWOOD, Tempe, Ariz.
NICK VANOS, 24, of San Mateo, Calif.
FRANK VLAZNY, 35, Northville, Mich.
DORIAN WALLINGTON, Chandler, Ariz.
DR. CHARLES WALTON, Mesa, Ariz.
LEONARD C. WEITE, 48, Phoenix.
WILLIAM WISCHERATH, 33, Liverpool, N. Y.
LOWELL WORMLEY, 49, Delran, N. J.
VANESSA YOUNG, North Phoenix.
MICHAEL ZANGER, 23, Phoenix.
DORIS ZELL, 36, Glendale, Ariz.
RICHARD ZELL, 44, Glendale, Ariz.
PHYLLIS A. ZIGLER, 32, Gasport, N. Y.
Killed On The Ground:
EDDIE GALLOWAY, Detroit.
SHARON SCHWEITZER, Dearborn Heights, Mich.
The Chronicle Telegram Elyria Ohio 1987-08-17