United Flight 232 Survivor, Madison Native Reflects on 30th Anniversary
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – It’s a day of remembrance for many in the Upper Midwest. Today marks the 30th anniversary of United Flight 232, which made an emergency crash landing in Sioux City, killing more than 100 people.
The flight was on its way to Chicago from Denver when the tail engine exploded at 3:16 p.m. over Alta, Iowa and the plan began dropping.
The pilot crew managed to keep the plane in the air long enough to make it to a Sioux City runway. That’s when the plane made an impact at 255 miles per hour, flipped, broke into multiple pieces, and continued down the runway.
112 people on board died as a result of the crash.
Madison native Jerry Schemmel was among those on the flight who survived.
“Immediately inside the cabin, it was complete chaos. People being thrown about, some of them were strapped inside their chairs and their chairs had given and they were thrown that way. And smoke and fire and debris, all in the first couple of seconds after we hit down,” says Schemmel. “I remember thinking, all right, we’ve hit down hard, there’s a lot of people hurt, there’s probably some people who aren’t alive right now but we’ll coast to a stop and I’ll assess things then and about the time I had that thought, we flipped over frontwards, kinda cartwheeled end to end, flipped over and started sliding upside down.”
Schemmel says he spotted a hole where the plane broke into pieces and escaped into a cornfield. He later went back into the plane to rescue a baby.
Of the 184 survivors that day, Schemmel says he still keeps in touch with several of them. He says he hasn’t let the crash stop him from flying but he still thinks about it every day.
“You know, somedays it’s longer than other but I don’t think there’s a day that’s gone by that I haven’t thought about the crash. Most days it’s just a fleeting thought, most of the time when I wake up in the morning and think about it,” says Schemmel. “It doesn’t linger, it certainly doesn’t consume me anymore like it did the first couple years after the crash but I still think about it. Even 30 years later, somedays it feels like it’s been a long time, other days it feels like it just happened but it’s still there constantly.”
Schemmel is now the radio play-by-play announcer for the Colorado Rockies. He also wrote a book about the crash called ‘Chosen to Live.’ He says everyone has some sort of tragedy in their lives and he hopes his story helps others know they can move on from it.