The crash of ValuJet Flight 592.
This was the worst aviation accident in Florida and happened on May 11th, 1996. The plane crashed into the Florida Everglades. There were no survivors.
The aircraft took off from Dallas-Fort Worth at 8.20 in the morning. It was bound for Miami and there was a scheduled stop in Atlanta. Everything went as usual. At 2.30 in the afternoon, the plane was cleared for takeoff from Miami Airport for its return flight.
Captains Candalyn Kubeck and Richard Hazen could foresee that no problems were expected on the 110 minute flight back to Atlanta. The aircraft had only been airborne for about five minutes when the pilots noticed a curious noise. Checking their instruments, they located an electrical failure. Kubeck decided to return to Miami and announced this to the passengers.
Equally calmly, Hazen radioed Miami. However, within seconds the plane crashed into the Everglades. There were several fishermen in the area who saw the plane go down and one, Walton Little, used his cellphone to alert the authorities, giving them the accurate location due to the phone’s GPS. This meant that rescue crews were quickly on the scene but the plane had vanished into the swamp. There was almost no trace of where it had been.
Workers were sent in convoy by road but it was soon found that helicopters and airboats were more practical for the wild Everglades terrain. They faced extreme condition.The weather was hot and humid. There were swarms of mosquitos and the ever-present danger of alligators. The accident meant that the swamp waters quickly became hazardous and the rescue workers had to be issued with protective clothing, masks, gloves and eye protection. A boat patrolled the area containing snipers who were on the lookout for predatory alligators.
Afternoon thunderstorms are normal in South Florida at that time of year adding to the hazards and discomforts facing the rescue workers. Counsellors were on hand to treat them for the more emotional side of the rescue work.
Within twenty four hours of the accident, the area was also besieged by the media and their satellite trucks and other equipment added to the chaos.
Although the black box flight recorders were discovered by divers,they gave few clues as to what had happened aboard. Although they did reveal that there had been cries of ‘fire’.
At Miami Airport anxious relatives gathered but it soon became evident that no survivors would be found. To add to the poignancy, the following day was Mother’s Day. Many families were getting together to celebrate the day and many of the lost passengers were travelling to meet their families. There were entire families onboard,people heading for dream vacations and newly married couples going on honeymoon.
An investigation revealed that a fire had started in the cargo hold because of illegal oxygen canisters that were stored there.The blame was laid at the doors of ValuJet’s maintenance company, Sabre Tech. This blame eventually funnelled down to three SabreTech employees – maintenance supervisor, Daniel Gonzalez and two mechanics who worked on the plane, Eugene Florence and Mauro Valenzuela. The former two were acquitted.
Valenzuela failed to appear in court and is still at large.