CHICAGO (CBS)–This week marks the 40th anniversary of the day 271 doomed passengers and crew boarded an American Airlines plane at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. They never set foot on the ground in Los Angeles as they planned.
The air disaster on May 25, 1979 was set in motion when the plane’s left engine suddenly broke off as it departed the runway, damaging both the wing and hydraulic systems, causing the plane to roll as it tried to ascend.
Just 31 seconds after takeoff, the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 had plunged into the ground, black smoke billowing toward the sky on the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend.
Everyone on board Flight 191 was killed. Two people on the ground also died.
The plane crashed into an open field off Touhy Avenue in Elk Grove Township, and wreckage scattered onto a trailer park.
Smoke and flames were visible for miles to the thousands of drivers on the roads for Memorial Day weekend travel.
The crash today remains the deadliest commercial aircraft accident in U.S. history.