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Delta 191 Memorial Dedicated

Delta Flight 191 crashed August 2, 1985, as it attempted to land at DFW.
Delta Flight 191 crashed August 2, 1985, as it attempted to land at DFW.

By Shelley Kofler, KERA News

Dallas, TX – On this twenty-fifth anniversary of the Delta Flight 191 crash, victims' relatives and rescue crews came together.

KERA's Shelley Kofler has more on how the dedication of a memorial near DFW International Airport is closing wounds and celebrating change.

Some things you just never forget, no matter how much time passes.

Reese: A lot of times I can't remember things I did three days ago but I can remember this like it was yesterday.

DFW Battalion Chief Paul Reese was the first firefighter to reach the site of the burning, twisted wreckage that was Delta flight 191.

Reese: I remember a lot of mayhem a lot of destruction a lot of death.

Most of the passengers were dead and 25 years ago aviation officials didn't expect anyone to survive a jumbo jet crash like this one. But Reese thought maybe- just maybe- someone was still breathing. So he searched.

Reese: I thought as bad as it was there could be somebody alive. And there were. I found several people. I carried several people out by myself to the triage area.

As Reese searched Cindy Allen of North Richland Hills waited. Her mother, 40-year old Connie Shawl, was flying in from Fort Lauderdale. Cindy had driven to the airport to pick her up.

Allen: They put us in the room for hours and came out calling names of survivors and each time they would her name wasn't there.

Those announcing survivors never called Connie Shawl's name. Cindy has been coping with her mother's violent death ever since.

Allen: When I got married I wanted her to be there and she wasn't. When I had baby she wasn't there. All the big things that happen in your life - when you want your mother - I never had that.

Cindy Allen and Firefighter Paul Reese were among those forced together by tragedy 25 years ago, now reunited by the dedication of a memorial to the victims of Delta Flight 191.

As they crowded around the three-foot granite marker they shared their memories. DFW's Chief Executive Jeff Fegan remembers the bizarre weather leading up to the crash.

Fegan: I can remember the color of the sky was like nothing I had ever seen before.

The color of the sky signaled trouble. A thunderstorm was brewing as Delta Flight 191 neared the airport for landing. The plane's crew would discover too late that the storm was generating volatile, shifting winds, a phenomenon known as wind shear.

Flight 191 was some 800 feet above ground when a down draft slammed it into a field north of the runway. The L-1011 bounced back into the air, crossed State Highway 114, hit a water tank and exploded. On its decent the plane struck a car killing its driver. One hundred thirty-four on board also died.

Following the tragedy the aviation community studied weather data collected by the plane's equipment. Now all airliners have wind shear detection equipment on board. DFW has 18 wind shear detectors at the airport and more sophisticated rescue equipment.

Some find comfort in knowing the crash lead to better safety measures.

Cindy Allen says she'll think about that when she visits the memorial dedicated to her mother and the others who died.

Allen: I think it's high time this has happened and I'm glad they did it. It does bring a little closure. It's someplace we can all come. Family members can come and just remember.

Email Shelley Kofler