UA 232 – Sioux City

July 19th, 1989 started out as most days do when I am on the road. I woke up in the Sioux City Hilton and ate a good breakfast with a colleague who had flown out from Boston. Jonathon Young was there to help me upgrade a Laser system at St. Lukes Hospital. We still had a little work to finish so we drove to the hospital to complete the job. While we were at the hospital, there was a lot of activity because of an emergency preparedness drill that was going on. It was a city-wide drill that was simulating a major plane crash. Little did we know what the day would bring.

We finished up the job at around noon and we set off for the Sioux City airport so that Jonathon could fly on to Denver where he was scheduled to help another field engineer. I waited for Jonathon to check in and we then went to the airport restaurant to get a late lunch. I remember ordering a hamburger with French fries. Jonathon ordered his food to go and was soon off to board his flight. I remained in the restaurant to finish off my meal and get a little reading in before heading back to Omaha.

All of a sudden there was a lot of activity and people came rushing in to the restaurant to look out the large windows on the North side of the terminal. I was sitting near the windows and heard them talking about a crippled airliner that was attempting to land. I vividly remember sitting there and watching UA 232 attempt to land. The plane’s right wing hit the ground first and the aircraft burst into flame as the right wing cartwheeled through the air. The aircraft slowly came to a stop as sirens started wailing and emergency vehicles streamed from the terminal area.

UA 232 - Sioux City, Iowa - Plane Crash - DC-10 - Memories - Airport - Witness - N1819U

I waited to pay for my meal, and during that time Johnathon’s plane had returned to the terminal and he came back to the restaurant looking for me. The small plane that he was on had been holding on the runway waiting for the emergency landing to complete and he witnessed the crash from his seat on the plane. We waited around for some time to find out what was happening. We saw several people walk into the terminal that had been on the flight. It was amazing to us that anyone had survived the crash. We then found out that all flights were canceled and we retrieved Johnathon’s luggage and headed off for the airport in Omaha. It was amazing to me that Johnathon could get right back on a flight after our experience.

After dropping Jonathon off at the airport I went to the Omaha World Herald and found a friend from church that was working there. She put me in touch with a reporter and I was able to talk about my experience. In retrospect this was very helpful for me to gain closure on the events of the day.

UA 232 - Sioux City, Iowa - Plane Crash - DC-10 - Memories - Airport - Witness - N1819U

My eyewitness account in the Omaha World Herald.

I finally made it home and started watching the news as details came out about the accident. It was amazing to me that Captain Haynes was even able to get the plane to the airport with the many things that had gone wrong with the hydraulic system. Many people have tried to duplicate his actions in flight simulators and have found it almost impossible. Of the 296 passengers, 185 survived the crash.

UA 232 - Sioux City, Iowa - Plane Crash - DC-10 - Memories - Airport - Witness - N1819U

In the past 23 years I have flown all over the world and have been on many different flights. There have been only two times when I have been nervous about flying. The first was when I flew on a DC-10 to Canada. Knowing that this was the type of airplane that I had seen crash was a bit unnerving. Fortunately, there are very few DC-10’s still flying today and none with the airline that I usually fly on. The other time that I was nervous was about 19 years ago when I flew from Kansas City to Sioux City so that I could do some work in Sioux Center. The landing was not a good experience for me. I had to return to Sioux Center about a month later and this time I rented a car and drove. While returning home from this trip, I stopped in Omaha for the night and while there I found out that I had a second interview for the job that I now have. I also just remembered that I visited with my friend Tim that evening.

It is at these times that I think of Matthew Chapter 6:

Do Not Be Anxious

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.


So tomorrow I will think of the bravery shown by Captain Haynes in getting the plane to the airport and the many lives that he saved. I will think about my creator and how he watches over me. He has a plan for me and I just have to put my trust in him.


Originally written on July 18, 2009 and titled Twenty Years ago in Sioux City. Two numbers have been updated to reflect the additional three years and the newspaper scans have been added. The scans are all from copies of the Omaha Word Herald that I saved.

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7 Responses to UA 232 – Sioux City

  1. That’s an amazing piece. Incredible that so many survived.

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  4. Boomdeeadda says:

    Gee that sounded pretty profound. You just never know what life will throw at you. I don’t know if I could have gotten on to another plane after witnessing a crash. I don’t like to fly at the best of times and seems 1/2 the flights I’ve been on are bumpy and full of drama. That pilot must have nerves of steel, to keep his wits in the face of almost certain death and come out of it…..amazing guy.

  5. Darlene and I landed safely many years ago at the old ATL airport with everyone in the “crash position”. The plane had lost “some” hydraulic controls. We were met by fire trucks as we landed on a foamed runway and rolled a looong way and eventually stopped, then towed off the runway.

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