Little Rock, AR Jetliner Crash Landing, June 1999
"We landed, the plane started skidding, and then flames, flames," said passenger David Stanley, who wasn't hurt. "I remember flames and flames."
In all, 51 people were taken to the theater. Those taken to hospitals had injuries that included burns and cuts.
"Some of them were limping and had bandages on their heads," said Mark Washington, a security guard at Southwest Hospital. "They looked shocked and dazed .... aviation fuel, I could smell it on them."
The flight had 139 passengers and six crew members and was due to arrive at 9:41 p.m. The flight from Dallas was delayed for more than two hours and arrived just as the storm was hitting Little Rock with lightning, hail and winds gusting to nearly 90 mph.
Jim Harris, an aide to Gov. Mike Huckabee, confirmed there were fatalities, but he didn't know how many.
American Airlines spokesman Andrea Rader also confirmed deaths aboard the plane, but said the airline did not know how many people were killed.
"You don't know if anyone on impact was thrown into the swamp," American Airlines spokesman John Hotard said.
William Shumann, a spokesman with the FAA, said there was no distress call from the cockpit before the landing. The NTSB dispatched investigators from Washington D.C., early this morning.
Mr. Baber, a student at Ouachita Baptist University at Arkadelphia, was on the plane with other members of the Ouachita Singers from a tour of Germany.
Seated in row 30, he said the flames were within 15 feet of him by the time he got out 30 seconds after the landing. Some passengers getting off the plane found themselves in waist-deep water.
"There was panic, craziness, there were flames," Mr. Baber said. "The emergency door was cracked, and people were able to get out only one at a time."
Tom Ashcraft was waiting at the airport for his granddaughters, 13 and 11, to arrive.
"Some people said they saw it come in and (airline officials) announced that the flight was on the ground. The plane never came (to the gate)," Mr. Ashcraft said.
A check of the plane's maintenance records revealed only a minor problem in 1994 with an emergency exit light.
The deaths are the first in an U.S. commercial airline accident since Dec. 28, 1997, when a woman was killed aboard a United Airlines 747 that encountered severe turbulence over the Pacific.
Last year, aviation officials celebrated a fatality-free year aboard scheduled U.S. commercial flights. U.S. airliners also had one of their safest years ever in 1997, a year after one of the deadliest on record.
The Capital Annapolis Maryland 1999-06-02
Capt. RICHARD BUSCHMANN, 48, pilot.
MARY COUCH, 68.
RACHEL FULLER, 14.
SARA "SUE" RAMEY GRAY, 78.
JAMES HARRISON, 21.
BETTY INGRAM, 69.
GORDON McLERRAN, 64.
LINDA McLERRAN, 65.
DEBRA SATTARI, 38.
JEFFREY STEWART, 33.
JUDY THACKER, 53.
More information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Airlines_Flight_1420