This story appeared in the Sioux City Journal on July 20, 1989.

A United Airlines DC-10 carrying 284 people crashed just north of a runway at the Sioux Gateway Airport killing over 160 people at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Airline officials said possibly 160 people died in the crash that ripped the airplane into several parts, causing a roar and sending a plume of flame 100 feet into the air.

The flight, number 232 en route to Philadelphia from Denver, radioed that it had an engine our about 40 miles southwest of Sioux City. A passenger on the plane said the engine went out near Omaha, but that could not be confirmed.

City Manager Hank Sinda reported initially that 123 people including the three United crew members, were taken to Sioux City hospitals.

Late Wednesday night, a spokesperson for St. Luke's Regional Medical Center said 187 passengers had been taken to both Sioux City hospitals. Eighty were taken to Marian Health Center and 107 to St. Luke's.

Of those taken to St. Luke's, 18 later were admitted, three of whom still were unidentified late Wednesday night. Two of the unidentified were children and one was an adult.

One of the passengers was dead on arrival at St. Luke's and another died at the hospital. Five passengers were reported to have died at Marian Health Center.

About 60 of the passengers were treated at St. Luke's and then dismissed. Many of those were taken to Briar Cliff College dormitories where they were to spend the night. Others, the St. Luke's spokesperson said, boarded a chartered United Airlines flight and flew to Chicago.

Detailed lists of the survivors and those killed were not available at press time.

The National Transportation Safety board assumed control of the investigation at 8 p.m. The bodies of the crash victims were tagged and covered and left on the field pending a preliminary NTSB investigation, and remained on the field at 9:30 p.m. Sinda said they would be moved to a temporary morgue at the Air National Guard Base.

The "Black box" flight recorder had not been found by 9:30 p.m.

Many of the survivors walked away from the crash with little or no apparent injuries while many who died appeared to have died instantly.

A worker who ran to the crash scene from his job at Graham Aviation Service, a few hundred feet from the point of impact, said the runway was a gruesome sight.

"there are people ripped in half our there, said the witness. "I was gonna help but I can't handle it. I'll quit before I go back out there."

Victims were found dead on the runway and still strapped into their seats, upside down in the plane sections.

The plane was flying southwest as it approached the airport apparently trying to make it to runway 22 which runs southwest. The runway has been closed for some time and part of the paving has been removed. The pilot, however, radioed that runway 22 would have to do because he couldn't control the plane enough to turn to another runway.

The plane's wings rocked back and forth as it descended until the craft pitched violently to its right, causing the right wing to hit ground and sent the plane into a sort of cartwheel spin. The plane then burst into flames shortly after impact, scattering debris and plane sections skidded down across the runway toward a cornfield.

The pilot had radioed Sioux Gateway saying he thought the plane wouldn't make it that far and he would try to land in Ida County, east of Sioux City.

The pilot later radioed that he thought he could make it to Sioux City, but the hydraulic failure and didn't think he could stop the plane if he did land.

Fire Chief Bob Hamilton said the plane landed about 600 feet from the runway, but that it was approaching the runway at an angle of about 90 degrees because the pilot was unable to maneuver the plane.

"The main body of the fire was in the main fuselage area. The rest of the aircraft is pretty well gone," he said.

John Mullins, a worker at Sioux City Tarp near the crash site, said the accident was "ugly."

"I got up on the roof and saw it come down and we saw a ball of flame and then the tail end broke off it and the nose of it went straight down and the whole thing bounced up in the air and just kept cartwheeling," said Mullins. "I started shaking as soon as I saw it."

Peggy Kunkel of Mapleton said she was driving north on Interstate 29 when she saw the crippled plane cross in front of her.

Kunkel said she saw two explosions on the plane as it approached the airport. The explosions were on the plane's left side. "The first made it tilt at an angle with the left wing down. The second made it roll and then it went over a building," she said.

Kunkel said she thought the plane had both engines under its wings as it approached and the landing gear appeared to be down.

Dr. Michael Jones of Sioux City said he was driving down Interstate 29 which runs by the airport when he saw the crash.

"It hit and I saw a bog cloud of smoke," Jones said. "Then I saw the United tail as it flew up over the trees and in a big ball of flame."

Dennis Hanson of Sergeant Bluff said he heard the explosion and saw the flame and smoke.

"I saw the plane off the ground, but it hit again about 200 yards away from where it first hit and it came to rest another 300 or 400 yards down the runway. There were three explosions."

Passengers and witnesses speculated that the tail section had been damaged when the plane's engine failed, causing it to have problems maintaining altitude.

"When it came over our house there was something real long protruding out of his tail section. The right engine was not going but his landing gear was down."

Fire trucks and ambulances rushed to the scene as the plane roared in flames. Passengers were running from the plane as the fire rigs raced y, many spattered with blood.

Many of the passengers walked away with no apparent physical harm. At the crash scene, groups of passengers huddled together while others gripped each other and searched for friends.

Inside the plane, passengers said the pilot did his best to keep them informed as to what was happening.

"The pilot did a hell of a job," said a survivor. "They fought it all the way."

Cliff Marshall of Columbus, Ohio said the plane "bounced once and we thought we were going to be ok, but then it bounced again and it flipped over."

At first Marshall was stunned. "We only sat there for a couple of minutes and it began to fill up with smoke. Then god opened up a hole in the basement (bottom of the plane) and I pushed a little girl out and grabbed another and kept pulling them out until they didn't come no more."

One passenger said he got up to sit with a 8-year-old boy. Ben Radtke of Prairie View, Ill., who was traveling alone when he suspected the crash was imminent.

"The boy was sitting by himself, alone, across the aisle and when they said we were gonna crash, Ron (Rhode) got up and went and sat by him, said Danny Sugre of Chicago.

Rhode, of Marysville, Ohio, said the plane "hit and bounced, then flipped and spun so we ended up upside down. I let go and asked Dan for the kid." and shoved him out. Rhode's section of the plane ended up in the cornfield east of the runway.

Despite the concern for Radtke, Rhode and Sugre said they declined any hint of heroism.

"No hero stuff please, Sugre said. Ben was shaking but thankful to be alive. "I thought I was going to die," he said, clutching a United Airlines button he was wearing and as pair of plastic pilot's wings he had in his pocket.

After impact, rescuers rushed into a nearby cornfield looking for survivors.

 

 

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