Survivors Remember Flight 90

ByABC News via GMA logo
August 5, 2002, 9:40 AM

Aug. 5 -- It's been more than 20 years since Air Florida Flight 90 took off from National Airport and crashed onto a bridge in downtown Washington, then plunged into the icy waters of the Potomac River.

A voice recorder captured the final moments before the plane crashed on Jan. 13, 1982. Flight 90 never got higher than a few hundred feet, and the pilots saw the crash coming.

"Larry, we're going down, Larry," said First Officer Roger Pettit.

I know it," said Capt. Larry Wheaton.

The Boeing 737 slammed into the 14th Street Bridge, shearing off the tops of cars, and then crashed into the icy river.

CNN had just introduced what became a new phenomenon the 24-hour news channel. The cable network provided live images of survivors struggling in the water as viewers at home watched and waited for what they knew would be a devastating death toll.

Of those on board the plane, 74 people died. Five survived.

Flight attendant Kelly Duncan, the only crew members to survive, said the crash seemed unreal.

"My next feeling was that I was just floating through white and I felt like I was dying and I just thought I'm not really ready to die," she told ABCNEWS back in 1982.

Today Duncan, 43, is a preschool teacher at a Christian school. She is married with three children.

Joe Stiley told ABCNEWS in 1982, that the freezing water jarred him into consciousness.

Both Stiley and Duncan joined ABCNEWS' Good Morning America today for a look back at their amazing survival, against all odds.

I Wanted Out in the Worst Way

Stiley, a pilot himself, said he realized that something was wrong as the plane headed down the runway. He said there was still snow and slush on the wings and he remembered wishing he could get off the plane.

"You could see out one side, but not really the other side," said Stiley, now 63. "I wanted out in the worst way."

Stiley suffered hypothermia, a broken arm, leg, a skull fracture, broken jaw and spinal injuries.