Today (Jan. 13) is the 40th anniversary of Air Florida Flight 90 crashing into the 14th Street Bridge, a tragedy that killed 78 people.
It was a snowy January day in 1982, with a number of flights being delayed by the winter weather and National Airport even closing for a period of time. After a nearly two-hour delay, Air Florida Flight 90 took off right before 4 p.m., but after only getting 350 feet in the air, it came right down — a victim of pilot error and ice buildup.
The aircraft carrying 79 people crashed into the barrier wall of the northbound span of the 14th Street Bridge, between Arlington and D.C. It struck seven occupied vehicles and plunged into the icy Potomac River below.
The crash killed 78 people in all, including four people on the ground, with another nine people injured. Five people onboard the plane survived.
Arlington firefighters were among the first on scene, navigating treacherous road conditions and heavy traffic en route to assist with the rescue operation.
Arland D. Williams Jr. was a passenger himself who survived the initial crash and needed saving, but kept handing the rope to others to save themselves before him. By the time, a rescue helicopter came back to save that one last person, Williams, he had fallen into the Potomac and drowned.
He, too, was hailed as a hero by President Ronald Reagan. When the northbound span of the 14th Street Bridge was repaired and reopened in 1985, the bridge connecting D.C. to Arlington was renamed the “Arland D. Williams Jr. Memorial Bridge” in his honor.
WTOP spoke recently with one of its reporters who was covering the story that day, Dave Statter. Rhetorically, Statter questioned if a crash of this magnitude and in such a public setting happened today, would there have been heroes of this nature?
“Would people be so focused on getting those images, and so detached, that we wouldn’t have a Lenny Skutnik or Roger Olian, jumping in the river, trying to save those passengers?” Statter asked.
Some good did come out of unspeakable tragedy. The National Transportation Safety Board determined the crash was likely caused by bad anti-icing practices and operations. This led to dramatic improvement in how airplanes are operated in cold and icy weather, including new and innovative technology used to de-ice planes.
In an almost-unbelievable cruel twist, another terrible accident happened in D.C. that day. Less than 30 minutes after the Flight 90 crash and only a few miles away, a Metro train derailed killing three people and injuring 25 more.
The two incidents shared the front page of the Washington Post the next morning.
A plane crash in California wine country has claimed the lives of three people, including an Arlington couple.
Shauna and James Waite, who lived near Yorktown High School, were killed when their small plane crashed in a vineyard in Napa County on Friday morning.
According to a post on the website of running group D.C. Road Runners, of which the couple were active members, Shauna’s father Robert was also killed. The couple’s one-year-old son was with Shauna’s mother and was not on the plane, the group said.
The crash scattered wreckage and sparked a fire in the Abreu Vineyard, just south of the Angwin airfield, according to local news reports. Witnesses reported hearing a loud bang and seeing a plume of black smoke.
“There are no words that can describe the loss of these wonderful people,” said the D.C. Road Runners post. “They loved life and lived every moment to the fullest. Their excitement for life was infectious.”
The Waites were avid travelers and amateur athletes who competed in races and frequented wineries, photos on social media show. They both posted often about their son, whose first birthday party was held last weekend. In 2019, Shauna posted about obtaining her pilot’s license and surprising her dad, who was also a pilot.
Dr. Shauna Waite was a veterinarian with Columbia Pike Animal Hospital in Annandale. James was a marketing manager with the California-based fintech company Hearth, according to his LinkedIn profile. In addition to their other activities, the family rescued a number of pets, including two dogs, two cats and a gecko, according to Shauna’s biography on the animal hospital website.
Several dozen friends held an informal remembrance for the couple outside their Arlington home last night.
Residents and passersby may see fire and smoke may coming Reagan National Airport this weekend, but don’t worry — it’s just a drill.
The airport will be testing its emergency preparedness plan by simulating an airline crash with hundreds of pretend casualties, officials say. The full-scale disaster drill will be held from 9:00-11:30 a.m. on Saturday.
“During the exercise, smoke, fire, participants with mock injuries and a large number of emergency response vehicles may be visible to passengers and the public,” said the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
“Activities will be concentrated on the south side of the airfield in a controlled area near Runway 4,” MWAA said in a press release.
The drill will test how officials respond to a fiery airplane crash — from battling the flames, to triaging and transporting victims, and to coordinating communications with the public.
For those interested in participating, the airport is seeking volunteer victims who are at least 18 years old and have some clothes they don’t mind being destroyed by “moulage” — a.k.a. costume wound materials like fake blood.
All told, the airport hopes to attract 130 victims for the event.
Federal Aviation Administration regulations require airports develop emergency plans for disasters and test them with a full-scale disaster drill every three years. Saturday’s drill comes three years after DCA’s last drill in 2016.
MWAA also warns scanner listeners that they may hear first responders participating in the simulated scenario on Saturday.
Image via Eventbrite
Beyer Blasts GOP Tax Bill — Rep. Don Beyer is, to say the least, not a fan of the Republican tax bill that is expected to pass the House and be sent to the president’s desk later today. “At its core, this bill is an immoral redistribution of wealth towards the richest among us at a cost of trillions of dollars, and I believe that those who voted for this monstrosity will be held accountable,” Beyer said in a statement. [Rep. Don Beyer, Twitter]
Single Vote Swings Va. House — Thanks to a Democratic candidate in Newport News winning her race by a single vote, as determined in a recount, the Virginia House of Delegates is now evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, ending a majority the GOP has maintained since 2000. [Washington Post]
‘Dominion Pint’ Coming to Arlington — The owner of Meridian Pint (also Brookland Pint and Smoke & Barrel) in D.C. is planning to open a new craft beer-centric outpost somewhere in North Arlington. The location has not yet been announced, but it will be called “Dominion Pint.” [PoPville]
DESIGNArlington Winners Announced — The Arlington County Board on Tuesday recognized the ten 2017 DESIGNArlington award winners for “outstanding architectural or landscape design in the County.” Among the winners are the new Marymount University building in Ballston, the Tellus apartment building in Courthouse, “The Quill” public art project in Rosslyn and two private North Arlington residences. [Arlington County, Arlington County]
Gutshall Sworn In — The newest Arlington County Board member, Erik Gutshall, was sworn in at yesterday’s Board meeting, while outgoing County Board Chair Jay Fisette received a standing ovation. [Twitter]
Changes to Historic Preservation Process — The Arlington County Board voted unanimously last night to revise and further codify the process for requesting historic preservation studies. Until now, any single individual could request a “historic preservation overlay district” study, which requires significant county staff time to complete. Before the vote, such a study could even be requested without consulting property owners in the proposed district. [Arlington County]
Arlington Man Dies in Plane Crash — Paul Schuda, a National Transportation Safety Board official and Arlington resident, was among three people killed in the crash of a small plane in Indiana. [NPR, Legacy]
Photo courtesy Peter Golkin
30th Anniversary of Air Florida Crash — Thirty years ago today Air Florida Flight 90 took off from Reagan National Airport, slammed into the 14th Street Bridge and plunged into the icy Potomac River, killing 78 people. Only five people on the plane survived the crash. [Wikipedia, Washington Post]
Bondi Releases Statement on Tax Lien — County Board candidate Melissa Bondi has released a statement to supporters regarding the recent revelation of her tax troubles. “Blog commenters very recently have begun attacking me about two issues,” Bondi began. “The attacks have been sudden, nasty, highly personal, and intended to derail the excellent work we have done together as a campaign.” Bondi said that she has hired a tax advisor “to get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible.”
Il Radicchio Back Open After Sewage Backup — Il Radicchio (1801 Clarendon Blvd) closed temporarily on Jan. 3 due to a sewage backup, according to public records. The Italian restaurant reopened on Jan. 6. [Washington Post]
Seller’s Market in Arlington — Only 0.5 percent of all homes in Arlington were listed for sale late last year — a statistic that is a likely indicator of stiff competition between home buyers. [Washington Times]
Flickr pool photo by Divaknevil
County Spending Outpaces Revenue Gains — An improving economy will bring in more tax and fee revenue for the county next year, but those gains will be outpaced by projected increases in county spending. More from the Sun Gazette.
Plane Crash Survivor Back at Work in Arlington — Former NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe, who survived the Alaska plane crash that killed Sen. Ted Stevens, returned to work yesterday. O’Keefe is the CEO of Arlington-based EADS North America. More from Reuters.
Rosslyn Metro Escalator Makes Musical Noises — The Ode Street Tribune has a recording of a veritable chorus of mechanical noises emanating from an escalator at the Rosslyn Metro station.
Road Tattoo in Crystal City — Earlier, we reported that a road in Crystal City would be “tattooed” by artist Steed Taylor. Now, the deed is done. “Crystal City adds roadway tramp-stamp,” reads the headline on We Love DC.
Flickr pool photo by Ian Livingston
Three-Year-Old Boy Drowns Near Chain Bridge — The Arlington County Fire Department pulled the lifeless body of a 3-year-old boy from the Potomac River yesterday afternoon. He was pronounced dead at Virginia Hospital Center. The boy had been picnicking with his family near Chain Bridge when he somehow ended up in the water. More from TBD/ABC 7.
Alaska Plane Crash Survivor from Arlington Back in Va. — Friends and family were on hand at Dulles Airport to welcome Arlington resident Jim Morhard back to Virginia. The 54-year-old lobbyist is still recovering from injuries he sustained in the plane crash that killed former Alaska senator Ted Stevens. More from WUSA 9.
Students Will Have Option to Transfer from Certain Elementary Schools — After their neighborhood elementary schools failed to meet federal No Child Left Behind standards for two years in a row, parents will have the option of sending their kids to nearby schools with a better track record. More from the Sun Gazette.