30 years later: Pam Am Flight 759 crashes into a Kenner neighborhood
KENNER, LA (WGNO) — 30 years ago today Pan Am flight 759 crashed seconds after taking off from what's now Louis Armstrong Airport in Kenner. The plane plummeted to the ground killing everyone on board, eight on the ground, and scarring countless others. Vanessa Bolano talks to one of the first ones to arrive on scene.
"Oh my God, it was all burnt up, it looked like an explosion, like a warzone," remembers Sam Rahman, "I walked right about here, where it happened, and what I found was disgusting, severed arms, hands, stuff like that."
Rahman visits what was once an unrecognizable neighborhood covered in debris. He's fifty years old today, but ever since his 20th birthday the day has never been the same.
"Every birthday that I have always reminds me of this day."
The day is July 9th, 1982. It's the day Pan Am flight 759 crashed into the Roosevelt Subdivision in South Kenner.
"Over about four blocks, over by Roosevelt there was an actual engine sitting on top somebody's roof," recalls Rahman, "The crash site was so big. I mean it wasn't just one little block it was everywhere."
The scene traumatized many in the area. Actually, half of the EMT's who responded didn't continue their careers. The Las Vegas bound flight crashed less than a minute after take-off killing everyone on board and eight others on the ground. 154 lives lost in all.
A strong burst of wind shear is blamed for the accident. At the time it was the second deadliest plane crash in U.S. history.
It was a gut wrenching scene that unfolded 30 years ago, but for those touched by it, it seems like only yesterday.
The accident led to a mandate by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration that planes have on-board windshear detection systems installed by 1993. A memorial to the crash victims is located at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Kenner.