An Update on an Old Crash

Sometimes you just have to realize how small the world is.

I was in a cab heading to Portland International Airport on Monday morning, and ended up talking to the cabdriver about a few dozen subjects.  For some reason, we started talking about airliner crashes, and I brought up the United Airlines crash that’d happened in Portland back in 1978.  The driver got a look in his eye, and asked if I’d been in Portland when it happened.  I said no, but he said he had been.

“Where were you at the time?” I asked.

“Living with my brother, at Southeast 160th and Powell,” he replied.

That blew my mind…  See, he was just a couple of miles from the crash site.  He said that he was home, and was in his bathroom when he heard something and the power went out.  His phone rang, and it was his sister, who told him about the crash.  After hanging up, he raced over to see if there was anything he could do.  Of course by that time, there were plenty of emergency rescue workers, so he didn’t have to do anything.  “But the miracle about the crash,” he continued, “was that the plane missed a big apartment complex (100 apartments) by inches.  Instead, the plane plowed into two empty houses, which saved a bunch of lives.  And when it hit, the nose of the plane dug in and went under the plane, so the only fatalities were in the cockpit and first class.”

The other saving grace about the crash was that there was no fire – because there was no fuel left on the plane.

A fully loaded DC-8 with 189 souls on board crashing into a residential area had the possibility of killing many more than the 10 that were killed.  In a way, United, Portland, and the people on that plane were lucky.

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