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Remembering United Flight 232

July 11, 2014, 9:55 PM by Perry Groten

Remembering United Flight 232

Next weekend, people in northwest Iowa will gather to remember one of the worst air disasters in U.S. history. On July 19, 1989, a United Airlines DC-10 with nearly 300 people on board crash-landed at the Sioux City airport.  More than 100 people died. But amazingly, more than 180 others survived, thanks to the efforts of the flight crew and emergency workers at the scene. We look back 25 years at how hope and recovery prevailed in the midst of tragedy.

The fiery images of a plane cart-wheeling along the runway were seared into everyone's memory in Sioux City. 

"Part of the fuselage burned here, part of it burned right about there. Just amazing, it was awful," a witness said.

First responders raced to the scene to look, and to listen, for survivors.

"Bodies piled up on top of bodies and we listened for a moan. That's what we were doing, we were using our ears more than our eyes," an emergency worker said.

Passengers scrambled to get out of the burning wreckage alive. 

"And I just kept crawling and finally I saw some daylight and jumped out one of the emergency chutes," survivor Paul Fast said.

The youngest passengers recounted their own chilling tales of survival.

"The plane crashed, I was upside down in my seat belt," Dave Milford said

Flight crew members were quick to deflect any praise for their part in landing the plane.

"There is no hero. There is just a group of four people who did their job in an unusual circumstance. We put our best knowledge and resources together and did what we thought best," Capt. Al Haynes said.

Medical workers from neighboring states, including South Dakota, arrived in Sioux City to help treat the survivors.

"We had greater than probably 150 nurses that were here to help us out," a nurse said.

While Sioux City residents rolled up their sleeves to donate blood.

"I'm kind of scared of the needle, but I know that it's best that I do it anyway," a blood donor said.

An outpouring of compassion to overcome the grief that gripped a nation, a quarter century ago.

Flight 232 was on its way from Denver to Chicago at the time of the crash. Investigators determined the cause was a failure of an engine mounted in the tail of the plane that led to a loss of flight controls for the crew.

Both survivors and crew members of Flight 232 will be among those attending a three-day commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the crash, beginning next Friday in Sioux City.

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