Concord, CA Private Plane Crash, Dec 1985
THREE KILLED, 70 HURT IN MALL CRASH.
Concord, Calif. (AP) -- A plane crash that showered debris and burning fuel into a crowded shopping mall near a fogged-in airport was "one nightmare we've always been expecting," a fire official said Tuesday. Three people were killed and 70 injured.
The twin-engine plane attempting to land rammed through the roof of a Macy's store Monday night at the Sunvalley Mall, raining wreckage on an area where children were waiting to tell their dreams to Santa Claus.
"It was a mess, a real ugly mess," said David Sylstra, police chief of nearby San Pablo, who was in the 160-store shopping center when the plane crashed 50 feet from him. "I freaked out ...
I thought this was a terrorist bombing at first because that's the way people looked," he said Tuesday. "People were bleeding and burned, their hair melted, their skin coming off in sheets, their clothes burned off."
A long line of children was waiting to visit Santa when the plane crashed through the roof above them.
"It was horrible," said the wet, soot-covered Santa, who identified himself only as Christoher.
"I felt something explode behind me. Thank God I didn't have a child in my lap."
"An aircraft crashing into Sunvalley shopping center two nights before Christmas, all loaded up like it was -- that's one nightmare we've always been expecting .. with the airport as close as it is in the fog," said William Maxfield, chief of the Contra Costa County Consolidated Fire District.
The pilot of the Beechcraft Baron was flying by instruments when he radioed a "missed approach"
at Buchanan Field, less than a mile from the mall, and told the tower he was going around to try again. The plane dropped off radar screens and crashed moments later.
Airport manager Harold Wight said visibility was about three-quarters of a mile -- the minimum for landings there.
Officials said the plane's fuel rained into the mall through a gaping 50-foot-wide hole punched into the roof. Burning fuel flowed down an escalator; melting tar and red-hot sheets of metal fell from the roof, and acrid smoke blanketed the panicked crowd.
Reports from hospitals on the number of injured conflicted, but police Lt. Richard Gordy said there were 70 injuries "ranging from smoke inhalation to burns."
Darrell Harguth, an inspector with the fire district, said a damage estimate of "$3.5 million sounds about right."
Officials said shops that only have access from inside would remain closed, but larger stores which have outside doors were open Tuesday for the last shopping day before Christmas.
Seguin Gazette Enterprise Texas 1985-12-25
The names of those who died as a result of the crash:
In the plane:
JAMES M. GRAHAM, 67, of Oakland, pilot.
BRIAN W. OLIVER, 23, of Alamo.
JOHN F. "JACK" LEWIS, 48, of Oakland.
In Sun Valley Mall:
PAMELA JOY STANFORD, 22, of Antioch.
ALEXANDER LUONG, 14 months, of Concord (died six days after).
CHANDRIKA K. SHAH, 49, of Walnut Creek (died 2 weeks after.)
PATRICIA JOANNE LARSON, 45, of Lafayette (died 7 weeks after.)