A Valujet DC-9 jet with 109 people on board crashed in the Florida Everglades shortly after taking off from Miami International Airport yesterday afternoon. Aviation and rescue officials found wreckage widely scattered, and said there were apparently no survivors.
A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said the twin-engine plane, Flight 592, was bound for Atlanta, about 100 miles northwest of Miami Airport when the pilot reported smoke in the cockpit at 2:15 pm. The plane turned around and returned to the airport when the radar contact was lost at 2:25 p.m.
Two witnesses – a flight instructor and a student pilot in a small airborne plane about two miles away – saw the plane turn, spin, dive almost vertically, and then crash. The two said they did not see a fire, but an explosion sent a mushroom cloud 100 feet into the air over the Everglades swamp.
“When the ground fell, water and dirt flew out,” said coach Daniel Mulhaupt. He and his student, Rick Delaille, flew over the site, reported the Miami authorities by radio, pinpointed the site and rotated in a circular motion until the first rescue planes reached the scene, about 20 miles west of northwest Miami. Mr. Mulhaupt examined the Earth with binoculars. He said, “The wreck was as if you were taking your trash and dumping it on the ground, it looked like this.” When asked if there were any signs of survivors, he said, “It was terrible. Nothing could survive that. It was at a bank of 75 degrees.”
Rescue teams reported seeing some bodies in the water, but were unable to reach them because the site was submerged with flammable aviation fuel. The teams were also wary of the crocodiles and snakes. The Everglades, vast freshwater swamps reaching 110 miles south of Lake Okeechobee and covering 5,000 square miles, are an ecosystem endangered by development, but still wilderness where hawks and herons float in the form of a dream above the saw and a few humans.
The swamp appears to have swallowed up the wreckage. Television footage from helicopters flying over the crash site showed no shredded body, tail or other large parts of the plane, just what appeared to be widely scattered bits of white debris strewn over tall grass and desolate swamps.
It was not clear how deep the water was. One of the aerial photos showed a depression that appeared to be the exact site of the crash that took off from Miami shortly after 2 PM. On a daily two-hour excursion to Atlanta.
The Coast Guard sent rescue helicopters and aircraft to the site, which appeared to be inaccessible by road, and air boats were mobilized to ferry rescue and other emergency personnel to the area.
A staging area was set up to retrieve the victims on a dirt road half a mile from the accident, but boats and helicopters were the only means of approaching. By late afternoon, rescue workers in boats were circling the site, inspecting the wreckage, and as it got dark, lights were brought in to continue the dismal work.
The cause of the accident was unclear, as teams of investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration began an investigation.
Valujet Airlines Inc. Headquartered in Atlanta and serving 26 cities in 17 states, it launched operations in 1993 with an aging fleet that grew to 51 aircraft. It ran into a number of problems, including too many planes derailed and one that caught fire, but never crashed.
As news of the accident surfaced in the news reports, relatives and friends of the people on board went to Miami International Airport, looking for information about what had happened. The airport spokesman, Hernando Figuera, said the Dad Aviation District office was bringing in counselors to meet family members, about 50 of whom were at the airport.
Valujet employees at the airport declined to comment, but did take families and friends of the victims into a privacy hall, Mr. Vergera said.
Louis Jordan, president of Valujet, said at a news conference in Atlanta that the plane was carrying 104 passengers and a crew of 5. “Our thoughts, prayers, and sincere affection for those on board and their families, loved those on board,” Mr. Jordan said. “It is impossible to describe in words how damaging something like this is.”
a. Records show the plane was built in 1969. But Mr. Jordan and F.A.A. The officials said there was no reason to doubt the safety of the plane just because it was advanced. Mr. Jordan said maintenance records showed the plane had received regular inspections – three since last October – and were found to be in good working order in all respects.
Jordan emphasized that it could take months to determine the cause or causes of the accident, and said there were no indications of something going wrong with the aircraft’s Pratt & Whitney twin engines, which are mounted on either side of the fuselage behind the fuselage. Back wings.
He said that although disruptions over Florida during the afternoon led to the grounding of flights from Miami, including the take-off of Flight 592, the weather had not clearly played a role in the accident. He declined to discuss the financial implications of the crash for the young airline, but said it would maintain its schedules and “maintain the primary focus on the highest level of safety for Valujet’s customers”.
Valujet’s fleet, said to be the oldest in the industry, has faced a series of problems in the past two and a half years, the most serious of which was a fire on June 8 of last year that destroyed a DC-9 on a runway in Atlanta. . A flight attendant was burned and six other injuries were reported as 57 passengers and 5 crew members were evacuated.
A.A. The investigation found in the aftermath of the fire “a marked decline in the level of experience of new pilots hired by Phallogate as well as other jobs, such as mechanics and missionaries.” The investigation said Valujet’s rapid expansion from two to 48 aircraft was accompanied by accidents and accidents involving inexperienced pilots, inadequate maintenance and insufficiently trained flight attendants.
Valujet, the self-proclaimed fastest growing airline in history, said last month it would buy fewer aircraft than it had planned this year and would focus on the safety of its products in anticipation of the Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
The company had planned to expand its fleet to 58 aircraft by the end of this year, while current plans require only 54 aircraft, Jordan said yesterday. He said that seven days the FAA. Inspection of the airline’s fleet in February, after a series of accidents, found no major problems. 120-day period for FA. He said the airline’s safety checks are still underway.
Anthony J. Broderick, Director of the FA Association. As for regulation and accreditation, he said Valujet has voluntarily agreed to improve its personnel evaluation programs and procedures, to speed up new training and strengthen internal safety rules. There is no evidence, he said, that the carrier, which emphasizes low-cost prices, has ever feared maintenance or training.
The DC-9 has a cruising speed of 564 mph and a range of 1,335 miles. The aircraft first flew in 1965, and a newer version entered service in 1979. The aircraft that crashed was equipped with Pratt & Whitney JT8D engines, the most popular model in civil aviation. All 976 DC-9s ever were equipped with it.
On January 12, a Valujet DC-9 plane with 30 people aboard plunged into a snowmobile after landing at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, causing the airport to close for three hours. On January 26, another Valujet DC-9 got stuck in the mud at Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport and 101 passengers had to be returned to the terminal.
On February 28, another Valujet aircraft escaped from a runway in Savannah, Ja. On March 19, an emergency tube inflated inside the cabin of Valujet’s plane in Tampa, Florida, lightly injuring a flight attendant. The pilot had to crawl out of the window, climb into the plane through the tail cone and cut the chute with a knife to release the attendant.