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Capt. Al Haynes, right, shares his memories from United 232 while lead flight attendant Jan Brown, Col. Dennis Swanstrom and Bob Hamilton, former chief of the Sioux City Fire Department, listen during a discussion Friday at the Orpheum Theatre in Sioux City, Iowa. / Jay Pickthorn, (Sioux Falls, S.D.) Argus Leader

SIOUX CITY, Iowa - Twenty-five years after United Flight 232 cartwheeled down a runway airport here, the video of the DC-10 crashing and burning still brings a hushed silence from those watching.

But a 25th anniversary gathering Friday night, the first of three weekend events, also drew laughter and applause from the audience as two panels of rescued and rescuers remembered what happened on July 19, 1989.

Capt. Al Haynes, who piloted the aircraft that had left Denver en route to Chicago with a final leg to Philadelphia, received a standing ovation as he mounted the steps to the stage at the Orpheum Theatre. As he has so many times in the past, Haynes deflected the praise.

"That was for everybody associated with Flight 232, not me, but thank you," the 82-year-old retired pilot said. Haynes has spoken on Flight 232 1,700 times, donating each honorarium to charity, including those in the Sioux City area.

Haynes and an experienced crew were flying the jumbo jet over northwest Iowa when a catastrophic engine failure occurred, cutting all hydraulics in the plane. A flight manual that covered all possibilities never considered that might happen.

"You're mistaken," Haynes was told when he reported the problem, which shook the plane like a bomb, to airline officials in San Francisco. A pilot and flight instructor, Denny Fitch, flying as a passenger joined the three-man crew to help find a solution to the problem. They used engine thrust to fly in circles for 45 minutes, nearing the Sioux City airport.

Flight attendant Jan Brown had instinctively sat down when the plane was rocked. She later received second- and third-degree burns when her nylons melted to her legs.

"I'm not getting sucked out of the airplane," she recalled thinking. "I'm with it to the end."

Moderator Jim Wharton described the evening as a way to salute the day's heroes and to recognize the thousands who never received credit for their actions.

Haynes did that with air traffic controller Kevin Bachman, who was seated in the audience. He described Bachman's voice as "the most controlled, smooth voice" he had ever heard.

"He deserves a tremendous amount of credit," Haynes said.

When Flight 232 crashed, 184 crew and passengers survived, with 138 walking away. Of the 296 on board, 112 died.

Dennis Swanstrom, then commander of the 185th Air Refueling Wing, Iowa Air National Guard, said that when he saw the smoke erupting from the plane, he didn't imagine anyone could survive. Then he heard on the radio, "Believe it or not, people are coming out."

More than 400 emergency personnel from 50 surrounding communities had been summoned, and the area turned into a triage scene.

Dr. Quentin Durward, a neurosurgeon, was standing in his hospital's emergency room when he heard the jumbo jet go overhead. He had been listening to a second-by-second description of the plane coming down.

Briefly, it appeared that the plane would land safely on the runway. Then it tilted to the right. Expectation and joy changed to a chill down his spine, Durward said.

The first patient had been moved from the airport to the ER in 16 minutes, he said. The physician became emotional as he recalled the work done by Dr. Mike Wolpert, then head of trauma. He described it as magnificent.

Nine crew members were present at the weekend activities, including Susan Callender, who has been a flight attendant for 28 years. She survived the crash with whiplash, cuts and bruises.

"It feels really good to be back here," she said of the return to Sioux City. "There's a lot of emotion reconnecting with the people who took care of us."

Surviving the crash taught her to cherish every moment, Callender said.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Survivors of United 232 crash gather in Sioux City

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