MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It’s been 25 years since Valujet Flight 592, which took off from Miami International Airport with 110 souls on board, was lost in the Everglades when the DC-9 crashed minutes after take-off.
At the memorial built several years after the air disaster, some of the first responders came together to pay tribute to the people who died in the tragedy that Mother’s Day weekend.READ MORE: Royal Caribbean's 'Freedom Of The Seas' Completes Simulated Cruise, Returns To PortMiami
“I happened to see a picture of the Everglades and a helicopter hovering over the Everglades, and I thought, ‘I wonder what happened’.” Jane Lathem said after seeing the images on TV.
She and her husband Warren would soon find out their son Ray was onboard, heading back to Atlanta after missionary work. When they think of his life, they chose to celebrate the good that came of such an awful tragedy.
“A lot has happened in 25 years,” Jane said. “He was coming back from a mission trip to Venezuela. As a result of that we started going to Venezuela. We established a Methodist church there, a seminary, a clinic. We have lots of friends from Venezuela, our other son married a Venezuelan. As a result, we have four Venezuelan American grandchildren. So, a lot of blessings came from this,” she said.
Willie Alvarez was the Deputy Director of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue at the time.
“In my career we dedicate our lives to the living, to saving lives. This was an incident where there were no lives to save from the very first moment,” Alvarez recalled.
His main focus was keeping the families informed of what happened to their loved ones.READ MORE: Coral Gables Man Refuses To Sell Family House Swallowed By Massive Development
Investigators found improperly stored oxygen canisters ignited causing a massive fire, then the crash.
“When you think of an airplane crash you think of engine cowling and cockpits and an airplane, maybe in many pieces, but you can envision the aircraft. In this particular incident, the aircraft struck the ground at a very high rate of speed. It parted the swamp and the swamp covered it up,” he said.
Greg Kral is retired from the Miami-Dade Police Special Response Team.
“It smelled like motor fuel and death and that was my first impression,” he remembered.
He was one of the officers in the water recovering the victims, pieces of the plane and personal items of those who died on board.
“A photo album was found, and you realize the person that had this photo album, their life ended in an instant, as matter of fact 110 lives ended in an instant,” he said.
Ray’s family has relied on their faith over the years to see them through their darkest time.MORE NEWS: Authorities Identify Driver Fred Johnson Jr., Victims In Fatal Wilton Manors Crash
“We know where our son is we know we’ll see him again,” him mom Jane said.