Local Leader Remembers Sioux City Crash

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Fifteen years ago Monday more than 100 people died when United Airlines Flight 232 crashed into the runway at Sioux City Iowa Airport.

Many of us watched the aftermath from our living rooms, but one prominent man in our community was on the runway helping to save lives.

In 1989 Bay County-Panama City International Airport Director, Randy Curtis, was working as the Executive Director at Sioux City Airport. He remembers the tragedy like it was yesterday.

"There was a lot of bodies here. Lots of seats thrown out, and striking people, some people unbuckled their seatbelts and walked away," says Curtis.

Others weren't so lucky. It took three days to salvage through the wreckage, but Curtis and his staff is credited for helping to prevent what could have been a complete loss of life.

"About a year before the accident we went through a full scale disaster exercise. In fact, where the accident site happen is the same place we held the exercise," says Curtis.

Even the plane's pilot, who survived the crash, commented Monday on the Airport’s preparedness.

"I talk about five separate things, and I call them luck, communication, preparation, execution and cooperation. And it's how they came together in a kind of unique way to allow us to have so many survivors from what should have been a non-survivable crash," says Al Haynes, Flight 232 Pilot.

Curtis says it was an eye-opening experience that reminds him everyday how important safety really is.

"There were some positive things that came from the accident, that will hopefully prevent such accidents from occurring in the future," says Curtis.

Curtis says the Flight 232 helped to play a role in the FAA's decision to mandate an exercise every three years for all airports in the country.