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Memories of United Flight 232 live on 30 years after crash

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SIOUX CITY (KTIV) –  Thirty years ago on Friday, United Flight 232 crashed while trying to make an emergency landing at Sioux Gateway Airport.

On July 19, 1989, the jumbo jet, carrying 296 people from Denver to Chicago, suffered a hydraulic failure after the plane’s tail engine exploded.

Without hydraulics, the pilots lost nearly all control of the DC-10.

They managed to get the crippled jetliner to Sioux City, but without control, and with the plane traveling nearly 200 miles per hour, there was no way to put it safely on the runway, and the plane crashed.

One-hundred-twelve people lost their lives, and 184 people survived, some of whom walked away with little or no injury.

On Friday, the MidAmerica Museum of Aviation and Transportation held an open house to mark the anniversary.

Three decades have passed, but the events and memory of July 19, 1989, is still fresh in many people’s minds.

“The radios were going crazy about this aircraft in trouble,” Finley said.

“I do remember the middle of the afternoon, getting a page,” said Kelly Pomerenke. “They said report to the emergency room and I think we all got calls like that so things changed pretty quickly.”

Kelly Pomerenke was just 27-years-old, and beginning the first year of his family medicine residency.

Soon he was taking care of the walking-wounded from the crash.

“They told me they landed. They got up,” he said. “They picked the luggage up and went to the rescue vehicle and came to the hospital.”

Of the people on that flight, 184 survived that fateful day, but not everyone was so lucky.

Thirty years ago, 112 people lost their lives. At the museum, all 112 names are displayed together.

One of those names stands out for Kenneth Ward.

“My sister Diana, she was a very energetic and smart person,” Ward said. “She was a teacher. Then she became a sales rep for United Airlines.”

Diana Ward-Robinson was living in Denver and headed to Chicago that day when Flight 232 started having mechanical issues.

“One of my sisters called me and told me Diana was on that flight,” said Ward. “I just was just in the shower and couldn’t stop crying.”

For the first time in 30 years, Ward and his sisters made the trip to Sioux City.

“I started crying on the drive-in. Once I started to see the sign that said Sioux City and you could see the sky and all I could imagine was my sister on that airplane and everything she went through,” said Ward.

On Friday Ward, his sisters and Pomerenke reflected on their ever-present memories of July 19, 1989.

“It was with mixed emotions, but I think if we can be of any comfort to those people, it felt pretty good,” Pomerenke said.

Michaela Feldmann

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