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'Hell had ripped open': The day Delta 191 crashed at DFW Airport

It's now been 37 years since 136 passengers and crew were killed on a plane as it landed at DFW Airport.
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
The tail section of a Delta L-1011 jetliner remains near the runway at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Aug. 3, 1985, after it crashed on approach during a storm yesterday evening. A similar plane approaches the runway on a landing path in the background. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

DALLAS — Tuesday marked the 37th anniversary of the crash of Delta Flight 191 at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

The Lockheed L-1011 jumbo jet was coming in for a landing on a rainy Friday evening Aug. 2, 1985, when it encountered a "microburst" that sent the aircraft careening along the ground north of runway 17L, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The plane struck a car on Texas Highway 114, killing its driver, then broke up in a fireball as it slammed into two large above-ground water tanks.

The crash killed 136 passengers and crew on board plus the motorist; 27 people survived the impact.

The NTSB investigation said although the pilot was experienced and competent, training in dealing with microbursts was lacking. After the crash, pilots were required to train to react to microbursts and quickly take evasive action. Since then, weather forecasting and windshear detection also has improved.

Watch WFAA's 1985 coverage of the Delta 191 crash:

In 2017, WFAA spoke with Richard Laver, who survived the crash as a 12-year-old passenger. His father did not.

The two were flying from Florida to Dallas on Delta 191.

"The only thing I remember to this day is the violence, the impact, my father covered my body, and I could hear grown people screaming," Laver said. "When you survive something as violent as I did with people all around me, you wonder what your purpose is your whole life."

Memories of the crash remained fresh for Dallas viewers who posted their accounts of what happened on WFAA's Facebook page several years ago.

"My father was on that flight," Kirsten Monberg Gappelberg said. "Today we will convene with first responders at Founder's Plaza at 6 p.m. to remember that day."

"I remember Dixie Dunn, one of the senior flight attendants lost on the crash," wrote Linda Newman. "A beautiful soul."

"I was at the airport that day, with my two-year-old, picking up my husband on a flight that was supposed to land around the same time," Paula Cooper shared. "I'll never forget seeing the awful black smoke. People were parking in the middle of the road and running towards the crashed plane. I saw the crinkled up tanks on the north end of DFW that had been hit by the wings of the L-1011. I remember being absolutely stunned that anyone survived that awful crash."

Matt Lewis, who was working on the flight line for Delta that day, said the storm had blown luggage carts from the gate like they were child's toys.

"Later that evening, some of the other employees and I went to the crash site to volunteer," he wrote. "I was only 19 at the time, and I remember thinking that hell had ripped open and was right in front of me."

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