250 Attend 40th Anniversary Memorial Service at American Airlines Flight 191 Memorial Site at Lake Park, Lee St and Touhy Ave, Des Plaines

Dozens of people gathered at a memorial service to honor the 271 lives lost on American Airlines Flight 191, which crashed near I-90 in 1979.


With the end of Runway 32R/14L in the lower right corner, the approximate flight path of American Airlines Flight 191 on May 25, 1979 at 3:04 p.m. is shown by the red arrow [MAP/SAT]. The crash site was in an empty field just south of the oasis on Interstate 90, just east of the Elmhurst Road entrance.

A memorial service was held at American Airlines Flight 191 Memorial Site, which is located at the northwest corner of Lee Street and Touhy Avenue in Lake Park in Des Plaines. The site, which features a memorial wall and garden in honor the crash victims is located just southeast of Lake Opeka in Des Plaines, and is about one mile east of the crash site. May 25, 2019 marked the 40th anniversary of the crash on May 25, 1979 that killed 271 crew and passengers (258 passengers and 13 crewmembers) aboard the aircraft, and two people on the ground. About 250 people attended the memorial.

The memorial featured a reading of the names of the victims, spreading of soil from the crash site and the tolling of a bell 31 times for each of the 31 seconds that the flight was in the air.

The aircraft lost one of three engines on Runway 32R during takeoff because of an improper maintenance procedure.

The DC-10 crash site, which is now a water retention facility, was about 4600 feet beyond the end of Runway 14L/32R, which was closed in August 2015. The takeoff Runway 32R formerly sent departing aircraft ascending over the northwest suburbs. Runway 14L/32R and its parallel runway twin, formerly known as 14R/32L, were both designated for closure to make way for the new parallel east-west runway system at O’Hare. Runway 14R/32L became known as Runway 15/33 and closed in March 2018.

Info About Crash Response
Control Tower personnel witnessed the engine flip over the wing and onto the runway, and tried to help the flight crew return the aircraft for a landing.

The McDonnell Douglas DC-10 lost it’s left engine and crashed 31 second after takeoff, just missing a heavily-populated mobile home community.

Two people were killed on the ground when they opened a commercial overhead door to see what just happened after they heard and felt the aircraft crash.

Fire departments from Chicago and suburbs immediately responded to the crash. Chicago Fire Department was notified by the O’Hare control tower. Suburban fire departments became aware when an Elk Grove Township Fire Department crew witnessed the flames and towering smoke.

Many callers to Elk Grove Village Fire Department mistook the aircraft crash for a factory explosion, unaware that an aircraft had crashed.

Telephone audio at Elk Grove Village Fire Department dispatch office on May 25, 1979.

As a flood of phone calls hit the dispatch offices of local fire departments, especially Elk Grove Village Fire Department, the crew of Elk Grove Township Fire Department Ambulance 321 was on the street, and saw the ball of fire and huge plume of smoke. Here is the local suburban fire department radio traffic that followed …

Radio communications on the northwest suburban local fire radio frequency for Elk Grove Village, Arlington Heights, Mount Prospect, Buffalo Grove and Elk Grove Township Fire Department immediately after the crash of American Airlines Flight 191 on May 25, 1979.

When American Airlines Flight 191 crashed just north of O’Hare International Airport there were many witnesses to the smoke and fire that immediately rose ominously from the crash site. Some fire units were already on the street and reported the unknown source of a huge fire and headed straight for the disaster scene.

The audio (with added transcript in video text) of the Local Fire frequency that was shared by several suburbs just north of the airport: Elk Grove Township, Elk Grove Village, Mount Prospect, Buffalo Grove and Arlington Heights.

Abbreviations used in the video transcript:
AHTS … Arlington Heights Fire Department serves the next suburb north of Elk Grove Village. The Arlington Heights Fire Alarm Office was also the command center for MABAS Division 1 (Mutual Aid Box Alarm System) — the mutual aid district that encompassed the disaster scene. The Arlington Heights Fire Department office managed the MABAS response via the NIFERN radio frequency, which is now known as IFERN and is used for major disasters when mutual aid among fire departments is required. Today MABAS Division 1 radio communication is managed by Northwest Central Dispatch System in Arlington Heights.

EGRT … Elk Grove Township Fire Department is the fire protection district that was closest to the disaster scene, directly north of O’Hare International Airport. At the time of the crash, Elk Grove Township Fire Department was a brand new department. Ambulance 321 had not yet certified for Advanced Life Support at the time of the crash. That is probably why EGRT Ambulance 321 was calling for help requesting an MICU. In the early days of Emergency Medical Service (EMS), Advanced Life Support (ALS) ambulances staffed by paramedics were called Mobile Intensive Care Units (MICU).

EGRV — Elk Grove Village Fire Department was the next closest suburb to the disaster scene. EGRV borders most of the west side of O’Hare International Airport.

MABAS … Mutual Alarm Box Alarm System invented in 1968 for suburban fire departments and modeled after the City of Chicago fire response alarm system. The system now includes the suburbs and the City of Chicago.

MTPR … Mount Prospect Fire Department covers the next suburb north of the district covered by Elk Grove Rural Township Fire Department.

NIFERN … Northern Illinois Fire Emergency Radio Network is the former name of IFERN the current acronym for the Interagency Fire Emergency Radio Network.

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