Winnetka man Tom Eilers speaks about surviving 1989 Sioux City plane crash

July 9, 2013 8:40:18 AM PDT
As the San Francisco crash proves, people do survive airplane disasters.

In 1989, a United Airlines flight on its way to Chicago made an emergency crash landing in Sioux City, Iowa. One hundred and eleven people died, but 185 survived, including a man who lives in north suburban Winnetka.

Over Sioux City, catastrophic engine and hydraulic failure led to United Flight 232 cartwheeling across the runway and into a corn field.

WATCH: ABC7's Paul Meincke covers the Sioux City deadly plane crash (1989)

"You had the impact in Sioux City. The plane and the fuselage tearing apart, but when everything came to rest it was like God had turned off all the sounds of the earth. It was totally silent," said Tom Eilers, 1989 Sioux City plane crash survivor.

Tom Eilers was a passenger on that plane. One of 185 survivors. 111 others died.

The Asiana Airlines crash scene brings back haunting memories.

"They really didn't anticipate survivors in Sioux City, people who observed it, and same thing here I understand. No one could imagine how anyone could survive. You look at the top of the plane burned off," said Eilers.

Eilers and his fellow survivors of United 232 continued to meet for several years of the crash. All of them, in their own way, asking an unanswerable question: Why did I survive when others did not?

"It does change your life. You may not realize it. It may take a while. It's very important for the survivors to talk about it," said Eilers.

Eilers got back onto an airplane just one month after he crawled out of the fuselage of United Airlines Flight 232 and into a cornfield. He continues to fly regularly for business, but says that even now, routine airplane noises remind him of the metal-on-metal crunching noise he heard that day in Sioux City.


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