Morbid Fact Du Jour for December 29, 2015

Today’s Swampy Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

On the afternoon of May 11, 1996, ValuJet Flight 592 pushed back from gate G2 in Miami after a delay of 1 hour and 4 minutes due to mechanical problems. There were 105 passengers, mainly from Florida and Georgia, on board, as well as a crew of two pilots and three flight attendants, bringing the total number of people on board to 110. At 2:04 pm, 10 minutes before the disaster, the DC-9 took off from runway 9L (now runway 8R) and began a normal climb.

At 2:10 pm, the passengers started to smell smoke. At the same time, the pilots heard a loud bang in their headphones and noticed the plane was losing electrical power. The spike in electrical power and the bang were eventually determined to be the result of a tire in the cargo hold exploding. Seconds later, flight attendant Jennifer Stearns entered the cockpit and informed the flight crew of a fire in the passenger cabin. Passengers’ shouts of “fire, fire, fire” were recorded on the cockpit voice recorder when the cockpit door was opened. Though the ValuJet flight attendant manual stated that the cockpit door should not be opened when smoke or other harmful gases might be present in the cabin, the intercom was disabled and there was no other way to inform the pilots of what was happening. The CDR indicated a progressive failure of the DC-9’s electrical and flight control systems due to the spreading fire.

Kubeck and Hazen immediately asked air traffic control for a return to Miami due to the increasing smoke in the cockpit and cabin, and were given instructions for a return to the airport. One minute later, Hazen requested the nearest available airport. Kubeck began to turn the plane left in preparation for the return to Miami. At that time, flight attendant Jennifer Stearns entered the cockpit asking why the pilots didn’t lower the oxygen masks for the passengers. The pilots had refused; they knew that oxygen would only make the fire worse.

Flight 592 disappeared from radar at 2:13:42 pm. Eyewitnesses nearby watched as the plane banked sharply to the left, rolled onto its side and nosedived into the Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area in the Everglades, a few miles west of Miami, at a speed in excess of 507 miles per hour (816 km/h). Kubeck lost control of the plane less than 10 seconds before impact. Examination of debris suggested that the fire burned through the floorboards in the cockpit, resulting in structural failure and damage to cables underneath the instrument panels; however, it was just as likely that the crew had also become incapacitated by smoke and fumes. As power had been lost to the cockpit voice recorder about 55 seconds before impact, it was impossible to pinpoint either scenario with certainty.[1]

Kubeck, Hazen, the three flight attendants, and all 105 passengers aboard were killed instantly. Recovery of the aircraft and victims was made extremely difficult by the location of the crash. The nearest road of any kind was more than a quarter mile (400 m) away from the crash scene, and the location of the crash itself was a deep-water swamp with a floor made out of solid limestone. The DC-9 was destroyed on impact, with no large pieces of the fuselage remaining. Sawgrass, alligators, and risk of bacterial infection from cuts plagued searchers involved in the recovery effort.

A group of fishermen witnessed the crash and reported that “The plane was flying in a steep right bank, after which it turned so that the nose was facing downward in a nearly vertical angle. It plummeted into the swamp followed by an explosion, shock wave, and a massive geyser of water.” They reported seeing no external damage to the DC-9 or any sign of fire or smoke other than the engine exhaust. A group of sightseers in a small private plane also witnessed the crash and provided a nearly identical account, stating that Flight 592 seemed to “disappear” after impacting the swamp and they could see nothing but scattered small debris and part of an engine near the crash site.

What a mess.

As with all such incidents, the flight manifest makes tragic reading. The ages of those who were killed ranged from four to 84, with many children being orphaned; for instance, the San Diego Chargers running back Rodney Culver died with his wife Karen, leaving behind two young children, Bree and Jada. More unusually, one DelMarie Baker, a 38-year-old waitress, almost certainly escaped the electric chair by dying on the crippled DC9. Baker’s disabled friend, Catherine Holmes, had recently been tortured to death by a would-be thief; the unfortunate woman – who was bound hand and foot, stabbed 20 times and suffocated with a sock – had died clutching a handful of hair, pulled out by its roots from the head of her attacker. Virtually as the flight took off, the police had received the report which matched the hair by DNA analysis to Baker. After her death, they closed the case.

Culled from: Black Box: Inside the World’s Worst Air Crashes and Wikipedia


Garretdom: Paranoid Man With A Gun Edition

Here’s another tale of 19th Century Woe – and one that actually sounds quite familiar. It seems paranoid Americans have always been shooting one another.

December 12, 1887

Shot His Daughter for a Burglar.

PITTSBURG, Dec. 12.–J. C. Hill, a prominent resident of Edgewood, a wealthy suburb of this city, mistook his daughter for a burglar early yesterday morning, and shot her through the neck, inflicting a dangerous and it is feared fatal wound. Mr. Hill made collections of about $5000, which he took to his home to keep over night. His daughter, who had a bad toothache, arose early yesterday morning , and went down to the library to the fire to warm herself. Her father, hearing the noise, thought burglars were in the house, and taking his revolver followed her down stairs. When he reached the door of the library he fired, the ball striking his daughter in the back of the neck and passing through to the front. The young lady is in a critical condition, and her father is almost crazed with grief.

From the Collection of The Comtesse DeSpair
The 1887 Morbid Scrapbook


  1. I didn’t know about the killer waitress aboard; she certainly got her just desserts, and unlike if she’d gone to trial and gotten the death penalty, she didn’t have any way to postpone what she probably had to know was inevitable.
    I did hear at the time about a guy who missed being on the flight because he was back in the airport having a tussle with a vending machine which had eaten his money and not given him a snack or soda. Normally I’d say that anyone who let themselves miss their flight over what? 75 cents, max? is a blue-ribbon fool, but I guess it’s true the good Lord looks after fools and babies. Or at least fools, in this case; He didn’t do such a hot job looking after the babies on the plane.

  2. This was back in the days when an adult could tell a kid not to do something and be reasonably confident he wouldn’t do it. All bets are off today; Granny might well have wound up bumping off her favorite grandson.

  3. I keep meaning to send you stuff about PSA Flight 182. The 727 that collided with a Cessna over San Diego. There is an oft told story of the “Screaming Superman”, a passenger that survived the initial impact and flew prone screaming down the street until he hit a parked car.
    “The guy next door was literally hospitalized because he survived the plane crashing near his house as he was in the front yard mowing, but saw a human being fly down the street, prone “like Superman” flying in the air he used to say, about thirty feet above the street at impact, which was a couple blocks up. He said the man had a high-pitched scream like a pig sreech, He could actually hear that amongst the concussion and explosion. That sound and the sight put him in the hospital for almost six weeks due to mental issues. The flying man ended up impacting a car a couple houses down.”
    That story just creeps me out!

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