Saturday, August 25, 2007

1978 Portland, Oregon Plane Crash


Edit December 9, 2013.
Yesterday I received a message on facebook  from Steve Tenhonen.  I didn't give out anyone's information but if you'd like to contact him his info is below.

Hi Matt my name is Steve Tenhonen. You might recognize name from a post on your site dedicated to the crash of flight 173. To make a long story short, I became friends with a survivor thanks to post on your blog. We have been for over five years. I have a Katu television reporter interested in talking to Cheri and other survivors from the Plane crash. Do you know how to get in touch with any other survivors who would be willing to talk Bill Gallagher at Katu for the 35th anniversary of the crash on December 2013 ? Sincerely Steve Tenhonen stevetenhonen@gmail.com 971-570-7303



Added April 18th, 2011: Google map link

While reading about Patsy Cline I got curious if Portland has ever had any plane crashes and I found out there was one in 1978, and it's not too far from where I live. Here's an account by a poster named Rose Red, link below:


Waymarking.com
"On Thursday, December 28, 1978, I entered a camera store at Jantzen Beach Shopping Center. I looked at the live news broadcast on the television sitting on the counter. A commercial jet had crashed in a residential area however it took awhile before it dawned on me that the crash site was located in Portland.

About 1815 Pacific standard time United Airlines Flight 173 en-route from Denver, CO to Portland, OR with 181 passengers and a crew of eight had crashed into two vacant houses, one at 15808 E. Burnside, and came to rest in a grove of firs in a residential area approximately five miles east of Portland International Airport. The wreckage path was about 1,554 ft long and about 130 ft wide.

Photographer: Jeff Schroeder



When the landing gear was lowered, only two of the landing gear indicator lights lit up. The plane repeatedly circled in the vicinity of Portland while the crew investigated the problem. Still uncertain, the pilot decided to go around once again, against the recommendation of the co-pilot. As a result the plane ran out of fuel and crash-landed at 285 feet elevation. There were 24 serious injuries, and ten deaths.

The investigation revealed that there was, in fact, no problem with the landing gear and that the unlit indicator light bulb had burnt out. The captain had failed to monitor properly the aircraft's fuel state and to properly respond to the low fuel state and the crewmember's advisories regarding fuel state. This resulted in fuel exhaustion to all engines. His inattention resulted from preoccupation with a landing gear malfunction and preparations for a possible landing emergency. The other two flight crewmembers failed to either to fully comprehend the criticality of the fuel state or to successfully communicate their concern to the captain.

Photographer: Jeff Schroeder



As a result of this accident United Airlines instituted the industry’s first Crew Resource Management/Cockpit Resource Management (CRM) program, which proved to be so successful that it is now used throughout the world."

Quick Description: On Thursday, December 28, 1978, United Airlines Flight 173 en-route from Denver, CO to Portland, OR with 181 passengers and a crew of eight crashed in a residential area five miles east of Portland International Airport.

Date of Crash: 12/28/1978

Aircraft Model: McDonnell-Douglas DC-8-61

Military or Civilian: Civilian

Tail Number: N8082U

Cause of Crash: Pilot error

Edit: 12-29-2012

I found some newspaper articles about the crash including information about Kim Edward Campbell, the prisoner who helped his guard evacuate the passengers before escaping.  A great story from such a tragic event, I'd like to shake his hand.

Tri City Herald - Dec 29, 1978
Crash Hero Prefers Freedom To Prison
His Thank You Was Good By
Aids Jet Passengers, Escapes




















After looking through the maps I've found and the information I've looked up I believe the site of the crash is just north of Burnside on the unmarked 158th avenue.  Here's a map from KATU, Which would put the site here: Google Maps



























 
Edit: 12-30-2008 

Here are some more links thanks to this blog:

Survivor recalls deadly 1978 Portland plane crash
The Seattle Times 12-29-2008

Woman recalls 1978 Portland jet crash
KATU News 12-29-2008, with video


Super 70's
With a "Share Your Memories" section.


Photographer: Jeff Schroeder



Here's a very, very lengthy article with transcribed radio transmission, and every other piece of information regarding the crash imaginable. Ominous name for a website though.

http://www.airdisaster.com/investigations/ua173.shtml
















































Photographer: Jeff Schroeder
 The photos I used for this post came from this site. Look out for pop ups and yelling things though.
http://www.airdisaster.com/photos/ua173/photo.shtml

45 comments:

Erik98671 said...

I've been telling the story for years, and now I have a reference for it. Thanks. I always heard it was on Burnside, but didn't know exactly where.

Anonymous said...

I ran down to see it when I was a kid!

Anonymous said...

This is the first crash I thought of when I read of the BA flight 38 crash at Heathrow today.

HH

Anonymous said...

The night of the crash, I remember standing right about where the "keep out" sign is in the picture. I was 8 years old. I remember seeing Firemen sifting around looking for people.

Steve said...

Hey
Thanks for posting this. I am a life long Oregonian and I could barely remember the details of this
plane crash. Until I found your post.
I was eleven years old when this crash took place (5th grade). I remember seeing it plastered all over the news.
I also remember several things from this incident. The first is a news image that was constantly flashed on Television.
It was footage of a child's doll lying in the plane wreckage. The doll was Bert from Sesame Street.
I remember thinking I would never leave my teddy bear
behind after a plane crash (Being a kid myself at the time).
I was concerned for the safety of the child. I hoped that the kid who owned the Bert doll was still alive.
The second thing I remember was that one of the survivors was a fugitive, who was being transported to another state (I wish I could remember the guys name).
The fugitive did survive the plane crash. The guy even managed to escape during the chaos.
The Newspaper's said that the police officer (who was in charge of the transport) told the fugitive to help the paramedic's carry injured passengers to safety.
I remember later seeing on the news that the fugitive was apprehended in another state.
One other unrelated detail is
that local television station
KATU (Channel Two) won an award
for best coverage of the crash.
If anyone finds any other details or even old TV footage,
please contact me.
Steve Tenhonen
stevetenhonen@gmail.com

Matt Camp said...

I received an email from someone who was actually on flight 173, here is Pia's story (thanks again for letting me post this).

"Hi...
I tried to add to the web site re: the air plane crash of 1978- Portland but was unable so I thought I would tell you, I was in that crash! Wow! It was interesting to see the pictures.
I will add that they had told us that they were having trouble with the landing gear and to sit-tight and then later told us they would be dropping the fuel so that we can make an unsuccessful landing and hopefully with no fuel the plane would not blow up...Scarey, yes! Lucky for most of us we survived!

Also, at that time the movie: SlauterHouse Five came out. I had seen the movie before the crash. When we were in Colorado before boarding, I had come across a Ski-er looking guy.....and then told my friend before boarding, "I have a feeling this plane is going to crash". You'd have to see that movie to understand the significance of seeing the ski-er.

Thanks for posting the pictures.

Pia"

Ron said...

I was 36 at the time. I lived on 158th, five houses off burnside. there was one house between me and where the plane stopped. I could out my rear window and there it was. It was there for quite some time before it was all cleaned up. My wife and I were not home at the time but my four children were. I remember seeing a news flash on tv where we were and immediatly headed home. I can remember the thoughts running through my mind those few miles driving home. It was a terrible feeling not knowing what I was going see when when we got there. But thank God nobody on the ground was hurt, or worse. Nice to read others views on it.

HaydenLake said...

I too road United Flight 173 that very cold December evening, with my two young sons ages 7 and 8 years at the time. We were all very fortunate to have survived the disaster but the PTSD is not so easy to dismiss. I don't think about the crash very much any more but think that it's interesting that anyone that lived in Portland at the time had a story to tell. It was interesting to see your pictures. Brought back what a mess it really was. Thanks for posting!

Cheri said...

I was on the flight with my mother and brother. I was 5 yrs old and only remember bits and pieces...like a dream. In reference to Steve's comment, Bert was mine! Is mine...I still have him. If anyone has information on the fugitive, please email it to me at cparr2001@yahoo.com. Also, if there are websites where survivors from the crash tell their stories, please send me the links. I'm interested to read others memories of the crash.

Lisa said...

That night changed my life. My parents and younger sisters were killed in the crash. I was 3. If you have any info on who took me off the plane, I would appreciate it. lisooch@att.net

cheri said...

Lisa,

I'm sure exactly who took you off of the plane, but I do know that the fugitive, Kim Edward Campbell and the officer in charge of transporting him back to OR, Capt. Roger Seed helped the majority of the survivors out of the wreckage.

Nic said...

I don't know what possessed me to google this, but I'm glad I did. Me and my friend Doyle Farris were some of the first people on the scene of this accident. We had heard what sounded like a plane way closer that it should have been. We were driving down Burnside and could see the aid cars several blocks down the street when we came upon the scene. It will always be some thing that I remember.

Anonymous said...

Dec. 28th, 1978 was my 17th birthday and I was living in Portland at the time. We were just talking about the plane crash at work and I found your blog. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

Anonymous said...

I watch it going down when i was a kid with my two younger brothers i lived a block a way from it when it crashed and was one of the first persons on the seen I can still see remember the people comming out of the plane and the roads were very icy the impact shook are houes like an earthquake. to this day i still have a small part of that plane.

Anonymous said...

My great grandfather was on that plane and did not survive. He exchanged seats with a woman aboard. She lived. I was going to turn 1 in January and he was on his way to see me. I never got to meet my great grandfather but I'm sure he was a kind person. It is amazing that of the 189 people aboard that only 10 didnt make it.

vja4Him said...

I was living nearby in an apartment complex, when the DC-8 crashed in Portland, Oregon, on December 28, 1978. I thought I heard a strange noise, ran outside and saw people running ... I ran after them, and saw the crash sight! That plane could have hit the apartments where I lived! That's the closest I've ever come to a plane crash. Don't want to get any closer than that!

- Riding 4 Life
http://vj4him.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

I was 20 and pregnant and was so scared. I lived on SE 89th and Taylor and remember the pictures on the News. I always think about that crash. I drove by a while later just not able to believe what the TV showed. It was very sad and I am sorry for everyone that was involved. I was surprised to find so many pictures about it. I think of it often and live even closer to the site now and hear the planes overhead and remember the day.

Anonymous said...

I was 29 years old and living in Eugene at the time. A number of people who wwere traveling on to Eugene were on that flight, and it oculd havebeen. I had considered flying that year to visit family for Christmas, but I had a phobia of flying and wasn't ready to do it. I remember thinking maybe if I had been on that flight I would have expereinced being in a plane crash but surviving and then I wouldn't be so afraid of flying. Looking at the pictures and hearing the stories, I see that was crazy to think that! I probably would be in a mental hospital to this day with PTSD. I did go on to overcome my fear of flying and have been on hundreds of flights since then. -Elaine

Anonymous said...

If you view the satellite photos, it looks like the lots the plane crashed into are vacant... Were they vacant then? Was a memorial created there, or does simply no one want to build a home where lives were lost?

Jim said...

Thanks for doing this. I had mislaid my copies of the newspaper articles. My wife and I were in the first row of smoking (we boarded at Denver at the last second from a Chicago connection) right about in the middle--one of the better places. It changed our lives in many ways, some of them good. PTSD still a problem.

Roni said...

I remember this crash each year about this time. My friend, Gwen, died in the crash. The last time we spoke, I was very discouraged about my grades (we were in 7th grade). She told me not to worry; that she'd help me get them up after we got back from Christmas vacation. I was up at Mt. Hood when it happened. I knew about the crash, but had no idea that Gwen was in it until I got home.

I only found out the details of the crash about a year ago (landing gear, circling, running out of fuel). I think my mother must have kept them from me. How difficult it must have been for Gwen's parents! I still feel terribly saddened when I think about the crash, and what a wonderful, encouraging person Gwen was.

Chris said...

I remember it well, my uncle used to live down the street on Burnside. I grew up about 3 miles NE of the site in Portland and still live here. I was 11, and we were all over at my grandparents house for xmas and spent the night watching the coverage. You just never forget something that happens so close to home. My father and I were remembering it at lunch today. So sad for those that were killed, so grateful so many survived.

Anonymous said...

I was living in Portland then and out of town on business. My roomate was going to look at a house for rent and was only a few blocks away when the plane hit the vacant rental house. He thought it was snowing but it was the insulation from that house and another that exploded on impact. He could have been inside that house a minute sooner. I remember something about the pilot aiming for a dark unlit area hoping to minimize injury. it worked.

Gary W. Emmerson, D.C. said...

I was driving home on Burnside that night. My car was directly under the jet as it hit the powerlines droping them on my car. The lights in all the streets and home went out immediately. My headlights illuminated power poles moving like trees in a 100 mph wind storm. I was not aware what happened, but within seconds there were sirens coming from all diredtions. I left the dents on my car for the next six years to remind me how fortunate I was to have not been hit by the plane as it crashed.

Jim said...

My wife and I were on the plane. We avoided saving news about it or returning to the crash site. Now I expect there is nothing to see.

Can someone provide, url, or suggest an exact location, also the direction and path we came in on. Now, after 30+ years, I'm really curious.

Ken said...

I was stationed at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, at the time of the crash. I was returning home for my sisters wedding, and had my tickets from Rapid City, SD, transferring in Denver, to this plane. Just two days before the flight, I was offered an extra day of leave, and took it, which made it okay for me to cash in my plane ticket and take the bus instead. The next day, upon reaching the bus station and calling my mother for pick up, I was informed that my plane had crashed just a few hours before.

The prisoner that was being transported did in fact help with stabilizing and transporting victims before he escaped. Governor Tom McCall stated, due to the non-violent nature of his crimes, and the obvious concern for others, he was welcome to remain in Oregon as long as he wished, and was given a Governor's Pardon.

Anonymous said...

yep,me and my bro,we were there that night.almost landed on us.we were headed down burnside.seen landing lights in my rear view and i hit the brakes. it blasted right over the the top of the car 50 feet.taking out power poles and power lines and everything else.we were some of the first people at the site.something ill never forget.i havent flown in a plane yet,,,50 years :) it was quite a trip. seadoo@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

I too lost a good friend to this crash. Gwen. She was only in 7th grade. She was sitting with her father Bill who was a sheriff from WA. state. He was asked to trade spots with someone in the middle of the plane due to knowing first aid. Tragically Gwen was killed and found in her seat near the door of the front of the plane. RIP Gwen.

Jeff Schroeder said...

Wow.. This is a trip finding this site. All of the pictures here are mine. I was 17 years old and a member of the Search and Rescue Explorer Scouts. We were tasked with site security in the days after the crash.

I found it amazing that I was allowed to walk around inside the secure area of the crash site with my camera the day after the crash and nobody stopped me. The only time I was stopped was after I took a couple of pictures of the flight attendants that came back looking for their luggage, they told me not to take pictures of them… Everything else was ok.

I took a couple of rolls of pictures but being only 17 didn't have enough money to buy more film. The next day my dad bought me a couple more rolls, but they wouldn't let me bring my camera in. I had to leave it in my car.

I still remember the entire experience like it was yesterday.. From the "call-out" the night that it happened and driving around in Mult Co. Sheriff's cars looking for people that were in the crash... to walking around the plane amazed that something that big could drop out of the sky and only 10 people were killed!! The site was very somber and the gravity of what had happened wasn't missed on anyone at the site.

I wasn't even on the plane, but that experience had changed me and helped me become who I am today.

Jeff Schroeder

Anonymous said...

I remember this whole thing since I lived not too far from the site like many. One thing that I found out about years later when I started to work in the airline industry, was that their are airline representatives at all major airlines in all cities. These special representatives are trained to help both survivors and family of those lost with all of the basics that people take for granted. Missing luggage, helping people contact family, money for temporary needs, hotels, what ever is needed when a crash occurs to help the people. I met a man from Delta who used to work for United that was on the site and helped many of the people through this ordeal. His stories were very impressive, sad, and heartwarming. He stayed up for 3 days helping all these people. A hero on the ground that never got noticed.

Anonymous in Portland

jim kobylecky said...

Well... I dunno'. The only people who contacted myself or my wife were insurance rep's trying to get us not to sue and lawyers trying to get us to sue.

There my have been such people and they may have help others, but they missed me.

I did meet a United flight officer was who bought us a bottle of champagne. But that was years later when I started to fly again.

Tina said...

I've been looking for pictures and a story behind the 1978 plane crash and this is by far the best I've come across. For Jeff Schroeder - I'm working on a project through work to find historical information on this and other emergencies/disasters in Multnomah County and am wondering if you could email me regarding your pictures and experience. This goes for anyone else who would like to share their experiences. ideaprincess @ gmail.com. Thank you!

Jane Wray said...

I was 15 years old when that happened. A friend of mine was to be on that flight, but decided to climb Pike's Peak instead. The house that the plane landed in was a co-workers parents house.

shannon said...

I was about 9 at the time and had once lived in the house that was hit. I have blocked out alot about the incident but remember somethings and decided to look up and see if it really happened, no wonder I have a fear of flying. We lived in that home for a few years and had just moved out.

Anonymous said...

I was 11 and i was being baby sat by a friend of my moms, it was dusk and we were kicking a soccer ball in front of the house i was at, (158th and glisan) i saw a plane for a second then i saw the flash, we ran in the house and listened to a police scanner, then ran down to the wreck, where we saw people wondering around and the police just showed when we go there so it was pretty much Pandemonium from then on... was a scary sight for an 11 year old....

liz said...

Executing a plan, at 17, to run away from home(Denver),to be with a boy I met 10 months prior and knew for a week, I realized I'd better not fly the airlines my mother actually worked for. Cancelled the one-way ticket on that United flight, and, booked one on Continental, same day, real close to the same time.
Mike, and, his sister Mary S. were driving from Aumsville, OR to pick me up, when, they saw a flash in their horizon, few min. later it was announced on the radio. Because of the change of plans I made, they were unsure of what airline I flew with..

Elizabeth Stopa

jennifer Barrett (Stone) said...

My name is Jennifer Barrett (Stone). I remember this very well. My family and I lived in the apartment complex (greenwood) in front of the staging area. My mother went down to help with the survivors because she had nursing experience. I will never forget the screaming and crying. Or the sirens. There were so many that came to help. Even at six years old I remember it so clearly. I have described this incident. To my husband many times and was greatful to find this page so he could understand.

Keith Dysinger said...

My name is Keith Dysinger. I remember this crash as we were visiting Portland at the time to attend the Far West Classic where MSU and Magic Johnson was playing. The interesting part is That we had flown in on that same United flight on Christmas Eve. And was Staying at a Motel just a few blocks from the crash Site. We drove over and visited the crash site the next morning.

Anonymous said...

We live under the flight path on 201st off of Glisan and still do. I remember that evening, seeing a passenger plane circling and away from the regular flight path and very low. I mentioned it to my husband and just minutes later we were told of the plane crash on Burnside and 158th. Such a scary event!

jim kobylecky said...

Has anyone been by there to see what's there now? On the crash site I mean. I never went back to look (my wife and I were on it and that seems enough). Now I doubt if I could find it unless there's a plaque or something.

Kathy Craig Driscoll said...

It's been 34 years since the Portland plane crash. Every year I remember that night on the 28th of December because I was on the plane with my 2 young sons. I just really wanted to thank Matt for authoring this historical blog that commerates the thoughts and happenings, complete with photos of that fateful night. And on a personal note, thank you for being on FaceBook, Matt. It has enabled me to "show" people rather than "tell" people. There was a time when I was pretty scrambled and telling that story was indeed a problem. Just wanted to yell, "Why me"! All these many years later some of it feels as though it just happened yesterday and other thoughts are just a distant memory. Thanks again Matt!

Matt Camp said...

It's an honor Kathy, I wasn't on the plane, (I was just a baby) but when I found out about the crash I had to know as much as I could. Jeff Schroeder's photos bring the whole post to life but the comments (including his) are the most interesting part of it.

The post went for months without a comment, I wasn't sure if people would think I wasn't showing enough respect to those who lost their lives during the crash so I almost took it down, I'm glad I didn't.

It's strange to think that this post is the one that I'm the most proud of writing. I'll make sure to update every time I find something.

Anonymous said...

I was about 17 years old working at a place on the corner of 162nd and Burnside a little building with a ramp. We called people on the phone and sold magazines to people. I remember the crash as I was working that day and it was hard not to go over and try to see everything going on but they told us to just go back to work. Very hard to do but we did go outside and see the plane at lunchtime. Wow that was close, it could have landed on us.

JJ Lindsey said...

I lived on 157th, just a few houses away from the crash. On hearing the 'boom' my mother immediately thought it was 'the bomb'. I was working down at the drugstore on Stark Street, right in the path of the plane had it landed maybe 3 seconds earlier. My brother was one of the first down to the scene, air filled with particulate---he expected that it might be a small plane crash....as the air cleared he saw the huge looming United airlines tail. Passengers were wandering around like ghosts, really. The dark swath of land at which the pilots were aimed (to their credit) was the deep backyards of all our properties on 157th...our pregnant horse must have really freaked, huge jet just over her head and the tops of all our large evergreens falling to the ground around her. For days afterward it was bitterly cold outside and my friends and I would take hot chocolate down to the officers guarding the crash site, standing around freezing. I sometimes reflect on how close we were to BEING the crash site itself, and how amazing it was that it literally flattened two entire houses, both unoccupied, while right next door to the crash the Clark's lived in a big house with oodles of adopted chldren---our schoolmates. The only silver lining to the story was that this crash initiated a new crew training program that is now used round the world, and has no doubt saved countless other lives. I am sorry for all the cabin and crew who lost their lives that night, and to all those seriously injured by the crash. Thank you Matt for the gift of 'gathering'!!

jim kobylecky said...

Hi JJ, my wife and I were on the plane, toward the back, the first row of the smoking section since non-smoking was filled.

I did not go back to see the crash site afterwards and my wife spent decades trying to forget it. I am very glad we missed the Clark's, we may have knocked on their door trying to find a phone that worked.

What I'd like to know now is what is there now? Homes, apartments, a parking lot? A little brass plaque would be nice but too much to hope for. And I do hope your horse and her coming foal lived to have good lives. Sorry to have dropped in unannounced. When I did call my folks back in Chicago my mother totally did not believe me and yelled at me to stop joking around.
Merry Christmas to all the browsers... jimk