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Air Florida Crash Hero Dies

Melvin “Gene” Windsor, who helped rescue passengers after Air Florida Flight 90 crashed into the 14th Street Bridge, passed away in South Carolina on Sunday.

Windsor was a rescue technician aboard the U.S. Park Police Eagle 1 helicopter on Jan. 13, 1982, when Flight 90, taking off from National Airport during a snowstorm, lost altitude and crashed into the bridge before plunging into the icy Potomac River.

With roads clogged due to the snowstorm, emergency crews had trouble reaching the crash site, and those that did were ill-equipped to rescue the survivors from the water. Windsor and Eagle 1 pilot Donald Usher arrived less than 20 minutes after the crash and began plucking survivors from the river and bringing them to shore.

In bad weather, with the helicopter skids at one point dipping into the water, Windsor and Usher’s efforts were daring — but ultimately pivotal in saving the lives of the five survivors. The rescues earned the pair a valor award from the Interior Department and the Carnegie Hero Fund medal.

Windsor, a Rockville native, most recently lived at Surfside Beach, S.C. He leaves behind his wife of 42 years, Maureen, several sons and daughters, 16 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, according to his obituary.

Windsor was 74.

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