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Eyewitness Report: PSA Flight 182

By: Anonymous

The final moments of PSA flight 182 were captured in several photos.
It was early in the morning. Warm & sunny. We had the day off from school for some reason, but I can't remember why. I was riding my bike in the street with my friend, Mike, about 4 blocks from my home in the North Park area of San Diego when I heard a faint blast, looked up and saw a jetliner falling out of the sky on fire. I can't remember thinking anything except "It's going to hit my house". Then I realized there were probably alot of people on the plane, and was immediately so scared I began to cry. Then I didn't hear anything until the plane hit the ground.

Watching that plane on impact is a sensation I hope I never have to relive again. The aircraft was diving at a steep angle and one wing was on fire, with flames shooting everywhere. I remember the plane disappearing behind some tall trees and then feeling the ground shake like an earthquake, and the deafening roar of the impact and following explosion. It was an absolute nightmare. It seemed like the entire neighborhood was on fire. The TV stations & news reporters were converging on the scene in what seemed like only a matter of minutes, but must've been at least half an hour. I think I just stood there talking to people for the longest time, but I don't remember anything they said. There were only distant sirens.

In a short period of time the police and several residents had blocked off the streets to traffic, and I remember hearing people screaming in the background, and others yelling to get help. I also remember the trees being on fire and this incredible column of black smoke rising into the clear air, and the smell of jet fuel burning. All these people - some Firefighters, some Police Officers, some ordinary people - were carrying injured people and passengers into the private school across the street. I didn't know then, but some of them were dead. I remember how weird it was that the freeway traffic was completely stopped on I-805, which was only a block from the impact site, and it was eerily quiet except for the distant chaos. My friend Mike disappeared. I found out he was okay, but he had gotten scared.

I rode my bike home and the police were everywhere. They were evacuating the neighborhood, and told my Mom to get our things and get out as soon as we could. We got some things and went to my Mom's friend's house in Pacific Beach. I was sort of crying the whole time and really scared. I guess I didn't understand what had actually happened, it had all happened so quickly. We stayed with my Mom's friend for about 3 days, and then we went on vacation to visit relatives in the Midwest. I was scared to get on the airplane, but my Mom insisted it would be okay - and it was. I had fun at my relatives' house, and it was good to get away from that mess. But everyone was asking us what happened, what it was like to see that.

When we got home to San Diego a week later, our neighborhood was busy with construction vehicles and utility crews. Everyone rushing to fix everything. The place where the plane had crashed was completely bare, from what I could see and remember, and they had blocked off the entire area and weren't letting anyone close to the site. It remained that way for what seemed like a year, and eventually everyone went back to their normal lives. We moved in 1981 to Pacific Beach. I went about 4 times to see a psychologist after we got home and she helped me sort out my feelings, and made me understand that what I had seen was very traumatic (a big word for an 11-year old). I understood, though, and she mentioned several times that I was doing remarkably well. I have since had some recurring plane crash nightmares, but nothing unexpected according to the people that determine these things.

I later learned, when I was older and understood better what had taken place, that the accident happened at 9:02am on September 25, 1978, and that the jet hit the ground at Dwight & Boundary streets, and it was caused when a small Cessna airplane collided with the larger passenger jet (PSA flight 182) over North Park. The PSA jet was on its final approach to the San Diego Airport from Los Angeles when the smaller plane struck it's right wing and damaged the hydraulics and flaps. It also caused the fire, and then the crash. The small plane went down in a neighborhood near University Avenue about 5 blocks from the PSA jet. There were 150 people on the large jet, 2 in the small plane, and 8 people on the ground killed in the accident.

Today the area where the plane crashed looks oddly newer than the older homes in the area. I can't imagine living there, knowing what had happened in 1978. I think alot of those people have no idea what took place....but maybe they do. I no longer live in San Diego, but I always drive by when I visit and say a little prayer.

[Editor's Note: For more information on the events surrounding the crash of Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 182, please view the accident record in the AirDisaster.Com Accident Database.]

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