Freak storm saw plane crash killing 137 as airport weatherman took dinner break

Nearly 150 people perished in a plane crash in 1985 that saw investigators claim the airport meteorologist on duty had taken a "long dinner break" at the time of the disaster.

The horrfying incident which saw the plane plummet to the ground 37 years ago today (August 2), was eventually found not to be the weather team's fault, however, despite them not alerting the crew to severe weather.

A judge instead laid blame on the Delta Air Lines crew of the 1985 flight – which saw 137 people killed and only 27 survivors.

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The aircraft impacted ground just over one mile short of the runway, struck a car near the airport, collided with two water tanks, and disintegrated.

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Survivors reported the fire to have broken out in the cabin before hitting the tanks and then spreading through the aircraft's interior.

Some injured passengers were unable to free themselves and rescue crews had to extricate them.

Most survivors were also soaked with jet fuel, further adding to the difficulty of escaping the wreckage. Two of the passengers who initially survived died more than 30 days later.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation blamed wind shear for the crash, but US District Judge David O. Belew Jr said the Delta Flight 191 crew knew – or should have known – there was severe weather on the horizon.

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Judge Belew said that “attempting to land the aircraft in a thunderstorm constituted negligence on the part of the crew of DL-191, and proximately caused the crash”.

But he also ruled that Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) tower personnel should have taken steps to ensure incoming pilots were aware of the severe weather – and that a meteorologist should have ensured the weather was being monitored continuously.

And although air traffic controllers failed to route the Lockheed L-1011 – en route from Fort Lauderdale to Dallas – to another runway, the judge said this failure did not constitute negligence, reports the Los Angeles Times.

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In a nearly 14-month trial that began in March 1988; the government argued the flight crew did not take FAA tower warnings, did not ask for weather data and took the decision to fly into the storm. The government also stated the jet’s radar should have warned the pilots of weather conditions.

Delta continued “to believe that the facts surrounding this case clearly establish total government responsibility for the tragic accident”.

The airline thus had looked to get the government pay all or part of the millions in claims following the air disaster; but ended up paying at least $66million (£55.2million) in death, injury and damage claims from the crash – but in those cases survivors waived the issue of liability.

Delta Air Lines Flight 191 has the second-highest death toll of any aviation accident involving a Lockheed L-1011 anywhere in the world after Saudia Flight 163 – in which all 287 passengers and 14 crew on board the died from smoke inhalation after the aircraft made a successful emergency landing at Riyadh.

The Daily Star recently reported on the anniversary of a plane crash that killed 261 passengers – all of whom were pilgrims – and all crew, which saw burnt bodies falling from the sky.

The flight, which took off 31 years ago on July 11, burst into flames after take-off from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and was soon destroyed by the blaze which spread into the cabins before crashing in the Arabian desert.

An investigation discovered the disaster was a result of one single underinflated tyre, which created a domino effect of incidents that led to the inescapable death trap inferno.

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