Anita's main passion in life is reading and writing. She also loves reading about aviation.
We Had Arrived at The Airport Early
Jeff's Seat Occupied by Child
We walked down the ramp towards the plane, a DC-10. Flight 232 which was ready for take-off.
We had spent hours waiting for a flight since early morning. Our flight was cancelled and Jay had refused two earlier seats on the previous planes because there had not been a seat for both of them.
Jeff was allocated a seat two rows ahead of Jay. When he got to his seat he was surprised to see a little boy sitting there. His father asked if he would mind to change seats with his son.
Jeff agreed to change seats, and was glad that the new seating arrangement was an aisle seat. However, Jeff was now seated seven rows ahead of Jay, instead of two.
They were both on their way to a Continental Basketball Association, Jeff was a Deputy Commissioner and legal counsel for the association and Jay was the Commissioner.
Jeff Heard a Loud Explosion
Jeff had just woken up after a nap when he heard a very loud explosion. While he was still wondering what was going on, he realized that they were going down.
In the cockpit the crew also heard a loud bang and then the plane shuddered. The Captain checked the instruments and the autopilot switched off. He checked the screen and saw that the number 2 engine had ceased.
He then followed the procedure to shut down the engine. First he had to close the throttle and then the fuel supply. But both were jammed.
He managed to switch off the fuel supply. But they were losing control of the plane. The DC-10 had three engines.
They Would Have To Make A Emergency Landing
Inside No 2 the center disk of a fan had cracked and disintegrated, spraying the pieces of fan inside the housing.
These pieces severed two of the aircraft’s three hydraulic-system liners. And at the same time the force of the explosion broke the lines of the third hydraulic system.
The plane had three independent hydraulic systems. If one system failed, the other two would still operate and if a second system failed, the third was there.
Nobody could anticipate that such a freak accident could occur. Acting on instinct, the Captain cut power to the left-wing engine and pushed the right engine to full power.
The plane slowly leveled again. But although they struggled to control the plane, it kept turning right and circling. An air-traffic controller began guiding them to the nearby airport at Sioux City.
The captain realized he was going to have to ditch the plane. Jeff had been praying continuously as were many other passengers.
Then the public address system came on, and they were told that there was a problem and that one engine had failed.
However, the plane was designed to be able to fly on two engines. Jeff saw that people seemed to relax but he had a feeling that something else was wrong.
This was confirmed when the Captain spoke on the public address system. He explained that there was more damage to the plane and that they would have to make an emergency landing.
The Right Wing First Hit The Ground
The right wing was the first to hit the ground, then the nose wheel and then the left of the plane. The tail and the right wingtip broke off while cutting a deep gouge into the concrete.
The plane was pushed into the air three times, then slamming back again onto the nose of the plane. The cockpit was compressed and finally snapped off.
The rest of the plane moved sideways and into a field where it overturned and burst into flames.
After the crash Jeff wanted to hold on to the seat in front of him to brace, but the seat had disappeared. People were screaming and the injured were moaning.
Jeff saw a woman strapped in her seat, fly pass him. There was no light and debris was whirling around in the plane. Seconds later passengers were hanging upside down in their seats, dangling towards the ceiling.
Jeff had no recollection of how he managed to undo the seatbelt. The interior of the plane was lit by the flames.
Preparing For A Crash Landing
The flight attendants told them to note where the nearest emergency landing was and be prepared to move their speedily after the crash.
They also advised the passengers to cross their arms, hold onto the seat in front of them and press their head against their hands.
After the explosion, the second Officer contacted the airport and confirmed that the planes number 2 engine had failed and that they had lost all hydraulics.
The plane struggled to Sioux City. The DC-10 got back some control when it descended into denser air.
All the runways had been cleared. Local hospitals and emergency vehicles were waiting on a runway.
Just before the command came to brace, Jeff turned around and looked at Jay, who gave him an encouraging smile.
He was clenching the seat rail in front of him, with his head down, when the plane hit the ground. The plane had no brakes and was travelling over 150 kilometers an hour faster than it should for a landing.
Jeff Hears A Baby Cry
There were many people still strapped in their seats, struggling to get out. Many were already dead. Jeff held his hand over his face to stop inhaling the smoke and moved towards the survivors.
He helped a passenger to release his seat belt and slide to the floor. They all moved to the exit, where two men were helping the survivors to leave the plane.
When there was no one left to help, Jeff and the two men stepped out of the plane and into a field. Jeff was just getting ready to run away from the plane as many were doing, because of the danger of explosion.
But then he heard a baby crying inside the plane. Without any thought to his own safety, he ran back and re-entered the smoke filled and burning plane.
He kept moving towards the sound of her crying. Eventually her crying seemed to be coming from below his feet. He felt over the floor and removed everything in his way.
The child was beneath a bag and a lot of other debris. He grabbed and threw away everything to get to the crying baby. Then he felt into a baggage compartment where she seemed to have fallen in. He felt her arm and pulled her out.
He Saved The Life Of The Little Girl
Struggling outside through the smoke, he looked at the little girl when he had put some distance between himself and the plane.
He saw a woman standing beneath a tree and asked her to hold the baby while he looked for his friend. When he looked back at the plane it was engulfed in smoke and fire.
They had just got out in time. It was then that he realized with horror that the wreck was only one part of the plane.
The Captain Had No Serious Injuries
Captain Haynes only recalls the first impact and then he lost consciousness. The cockpit was not recognized as it had been compressed to just about half its original size.
Then one of the rescue workers saw movement inside and to his amazement found that there were crewmen inside that were alive.
The Captain had no injuries except needing many stitches to his head. Jeff walked out of the field with its high growth with the others survivors, some of who were covered in blood.
Rescue workers guided them to a runway where an ambulance was waiting to take those that were not seriously injured to the airport.
A doctor was waiting to give them a medical checkup. As they rode in the ambulance they could see many bodies covered with blankets still waiting to be collected.
There were many helicopters collecting the injured from other ambulances and flying them to the hospital.
Pieces of the plane were strewn everywhere. At the room where they were to be examined, Jay was nowhere to be seen.
Helicopters Collected The Injured
The Baby Had Been Placed At Their Feet On Blankets
When he heard one father relate how he and his family had all been saved, he recognized the little girl he had fetched from the plane.
The father had returned to look for his daughter but had to leave the plane because of the heat.
He said that his wife and two little sons managed to get out, but that their daughter had disappeared from the impact. She had been placed at their feet surrounded by pillows and blankets.
Half an hour later he was walking around so upset, when he noticed a young woman standing under a tree with his daughter. He and his wife were overjoyed and were in fact looking for the man that had saved his daughter, Sabrina’s life.
Somebody pointed at Jeff, and Mark Michaelson rushed to thank him. As he thanked Jeff he gave him a hug and burst out crying.
The following day Jeff and the other survivors boarded a flight that had been arranged.
He felt lost leaving without Jay, his good friend, who the airlines had confirmed did not survive the crash. In the years since United 232 they have had many memorial services.
All the survivors kept thanking God for his mercy in saving them when so many others had died.
Flight Arranged for Jeff and Survivors
The Little Girl Was Lucky
The little girl had been very lucky. She had been thrown into a baggage compartment when the plane crashed.
Placing a small child at your feet as a safety measure when a plane crashes seems very far from safe. A small child has a very light weight, obviously with a crash, the child will fly or slide off.
Would a small child not be more secure and safe, attached by a second seat belt to the parent? With the child's back covered with a padded back lining.
And small babies could have padded and secure small cots build inline with the baggage compartment. A small baby only needs a very small space.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2017 Anita Hasch
Anita Hasch (author) from Port Elizabeth on August 21, 2017:
Hi Nadine, Yes, it was tragic, but with many miracles that happened as well. Many people were praying and I can imagine that it was a matter of define intervention that so many people were spared. This happened in 1996. The original article consisted of approximately 5,500 words. I had to be very careful to rewrite my story with just the facts, so I leave out one of the most important facts. Jeff is my hero in this story as well as the Captain. Wasn't it amazing that he saved the little one's life and after all she had been through, she could still smile at him outside the plane. There was a little 2 year old boy that was also placed by his mother's feet and did not make it. I left that section out. I really think that the airways all over the world should rethink their outdated security measures for the little ones. I am sure that the two year old could have been strapped into a seat, or a car safety seat strapped onto the passenger seat. When you drive in your car you have to secure small children's in their safety seats, so why should it be any different for a plane.
Nadine May from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa on August 20, 2017:
Wow, what a tragic story. Lately, we have been watching May Day on the TV. All about plane crashes so your story was very well written. When did this crash happen? Did I miss that?