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Worst U.S. Plane Accident Killed 273 in Chicago

From Associated Press

The worst disaster in U.S. aviation history occurred 10 years ago when an American Airlines DC-10 crashed on takeoff from O’Hare International Airport.

Flight 191 lost an engine on May 25, 1979, banked sideways out of control and slammed into a nearby field, exploding into an inferno. The furrow plowed in the field by the jetliner’s left wing is still visible.

The jetliner was reduced to scattered debris. All 258 passengers and 13 crew members were killed, as well as two people on the ground.

“To this day, it’s something that’s hard to comprehend, how a big plane like that could disintegrate into little pieces,” said Ray Devito of Mokena, who had driven his girlfriend to the airport to catch the ill-fated Los Angeles-bound flight.

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The crash Wednesday in Sioux City, Iowa, is the first major domestic accident involving a DC-10 since the Chicago disaster a decade ago.

The National Transportation Safety Board laid the primary blame for the 1979 crash on the airline, citing “maintenance-induced damage"--a 10-inch crack in the engine mount--that caused the left engine to tear loose. It also criticized McDonnell Douglas’ design as vulnerable to maintenance damage.

The safety board also said the Federal Aviation Administration had been remiss by not learning that a similar crack had recently been repaired in a Continental Airlines DC-10.

Since the accident, the FAA has been “very specific about what has to be reported to us and what doesn’t,” spokesman Fred Farrar said last spring.

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Elaine Bendell, a spokeswoman for McDonnell Douglas in Long Beach, said the only change made in the DC-10 pylon design was a shift to flathead rather than raised-head bolts.


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