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Phone Reports of the Crash of American Airlines Flight 191 on May 25, 1979

Sat March 08 2008 4:29 am
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Audio (the first 10 minutes) when people from Elk Grove Village and Elk Grove Township reported a huge explosion the day a DC-10 crashed at 400 West Touhy in Elk Grove Township — an unincorporated adjacent O’Hare International Airport.

MAY 25 1979 — There was no 9-1-1 when American Airlines Flight 191 crashed just north of O’Hare International Airport on May 25, 1979. The system in place at the time used an emergency seven-digit number for Elk Grove Fire Department.

Many people witnessed the crash or the immediate aftermath of the crash — a huge explosion that sent flames and smoke back up into the sky.

Here are 13 people’s phone reports to the emergency number at Elk Grove Village Fire Department.

Fire radio communications during management of the American Airlines Flight 191 crash are also available:
Chicago Fire Department (CFD) — C.F.D. 1 Radio “Main” Audio …
Suburban Fire Department Communications — Elk Grove Village Fire Department …

The Chicago Fire Department and nearby suburban fire departments that responded to the plane crash were on two separate frequencies. The suburban departments were given incorrect reports by citizens that a factory had exploded with the obvious confirmation of an explosion and huge fire nearby. Many calls came in, but most callers didn’t know exactly where the fire was. In contrast Chicago Fire Department was immediately notified by O’Hare officials that a DC-10 jetliner had crashed and set up a staging area near Mount Prospect Road and Touhy Road.

Elk Grove Township ambulance firefighters saw the resulting smoke and fire and started to respond before any report was even dispatched. For all responders early in the disaster, the event was particularly startling because of the characteristics of two properties that were very close to the crash and possibly involved: (1) One was the Standard Oil tank farm (currently BP), which housed many large tanks of flammable fuel and (2) the other was the highly-populated trailer park that in actuality was right next to the location of the crash. The crash did ignite some trailer homes, but fortunately the plane hit the ground a little east of the trailer park.

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