MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Thursday marks the 44-year anniversary of Eastern Airlines Flight 401 crashing into the Florida Everglades.
101 lives were lost that late December evening, with 75 passengers and crew surviving.
The cause of the crash was the flight crew becoming preoccupied with an indicator light regarding burnt-out landing gear.
The flight crew did not realize that the autopilot that been disconnected and the plane gradually lost altitude before crashing into the everglades.
Survivors often will gather around the crash site on December 29th, though there is no dedicated memorial.
Instead, survivors and family of those lost have met at the memorial for Valujet Flight 592, located on Tamiami Trail. That crash took place over two decades after Eastern Fligth 401 went down, but just two miles away.
“Forty years is like yesterday for us,” Beverly Raposa said at a gathering for the crash’s 40th anniversary.
Raposa was a flight attendant on board the flight. She recalled her actions that evening in the swamp where she encouraged passengers to sing Christmas carols until help arrived.
“We are there to get them out, to get them to safety. That was our primary responsibility,” Raposa said. “All of us that survived, I feel like we did the very best that we could to do just that.”
Raposa still flies often. So does Ron Infantino. The aviation buff was on that ill-fated flight in 1972. They are two of the 75 people who survived.
“I was trying not to drown,” Infantino said. He said he spent five hours in the murky water after the plane went down.
His wife of 20 days at the time, Fara, did not survive.
“We were starting our lives together. Both 26 years of age. Looking forward to it,” Infantino said. “Never thinking something tragic like this would ever happen. You never do, do you?”
Infantino said new pilots study Flight 401 as a lesson in Crew Resource Management.
He said standard operating procedures changed as a result of the crash. He hopes that’s a legacy no one will ever forget.
“This was an accident,” Infantino said. “But I know this kind of accident will never happen again, and that’s a fact.”