Full Union-Tribune San Diego coverage of their archives of the accident;
I had worked with a “kid” about 20 years ago that lived in that neighborhood at the time and had witnessed the whole event. Screwed up his whole life, he was never the same person after that he had said. I understand he finally succumbed to the depression as he ended his own life about 10 years ago. Sad story.
Ironic you should post this now. Just the other day for some odd reason I had searched “mid air collision” and re-read the entire story. So avoidable it seemed. The Cessna was off course but ATC never questioned him on it. The PSA 727 lost visual but never reported such to ATC. There was a second captain on the flight deck and from the transcripts, it seems they confused the accident plane with another they did see. A series of small mistakes leads to one big firey mess. Tragic.
This is from AirDisaster.com - an eyewitness report. If anyone minds it being posted here, I will link to it instead.
Eyewitness Report: PSA Flight 182
The final moments of PSA flight 182 were captured in several photos.
It was early in the morning. Warm & sunny. We had the day off from school for some reason, but I can’t remember why. I was riding my bike in the street with my friend, Mike, about 4 blocks from my home in the North Park area of San Diego when I heard a faint blast, looked up and saw a jetliner falling out of the sky on fire. I can’t remember thinking anything except “It’s going to hit my house”. Then I realized there were probably alot of people on the plane, and was immediately so scared I began to cry. Then I didn’t hear anything until the plane hit the ground.
Watching that plane on impact is a sensation I hope I never have to relive again. The aircraft was diving at a steep angle and one wing was on fire, with flames everywhere. I remember the plane disappearing behind some tall trees and then feeling the ground shake like an earthquake, and the deafening roar of the impact and following explosion. It was an absolute nightmare. It seemed like the entire neighborhood was on fire. The TV stations & news reporters were converging on the scene in what seemed like only a matter of minutes, but must’ve been at least half an hour. I think I just stood there talking to people for the longest time, but I don’t remember anything they said. There were only distant sirens.
In a short period of time the police and several residents had blocked off the streets to traffic, and I remember hearing people screaming in the background, and others yelling to get help. I also remember the trees being on fire and this incredible column of black smoke rising into the clear air, and the smell of jet fuel burning. All these people - some Firefighters, some Police Officers, some ordinary people - were carrying injured people and passengers into the private school across the street. I didn’t know then, but some of them were . I remember how weird it was that the freeway traffic was completely stopped on I-805, which was only a block from the impact site, and it was eerily quiet except for the distant chaos. My friend Mike disappeared. I found out he was okay, but he had gotten scared.
I rode my bike home and the police were everywhere. They were evacuating the neighborhood, and told my Mom to get our things and get out as soon as we could. We got some things and went to my Mom’s friend’s house in Pacific Beach. I was sort of crying the whole time and really scared. I guess I didn’t understand what had actually happened, it had all happened so quickly. We stayed with my Mom’s friend for about 3 days, and then we went on vacation to visit relatives in the Midwest. I was scared to get on the airplane, but my Mom insisted it would be okay - and it was. I had fun at my relatives’ house, and it was good to get away from that mess. But everyone was asking us what happened, what it was like to see that.
When we got home to San Diego a week later, our neighborhood was busy with construction vehicles and utility crews. Everyone rushing to fix everything. The place where the plane had crashed was completely bare, from what I could see and remember, and they had blocked off the entire area and weren’t letting anyone close to the site. It remained that way for what seemed like a year, and eventually everyone went back to their normal lives. We moved in 1981 to Pacific Beach. I went about 4 times to see a psychologist after we got home and she helped me sort out my feelings, and made me understand that what I had seen was very traumatic (a big word for an 11-year old). I understood, though, and she mentioned several times that I was doing remarkably well. I have since had some recurring plane crash nightmares, but nothing unexpected according to the people that determine these things.
I later learned, when I was older and understood better what had taken place, that the happened at 9:02am on September 25, 1978, and that the jet hit the ground at Dwight & Boundary streets, and it was caused when a small Cessna airplane collided with the larger passenger jet (PSA flight 182) over North Park. The PSA jet was on its final approach to the San Diego Airport from Los Angeles when the smaller plane struck it’s right wing and damaged the hydraulics and flaps. It also caused the fire, and then the crash. The small plane went down in a neighborhood near University Avenue about 5 blocks from the PSA jet. There were 150 people on the large jet, 2 in the small plane, and 8 people on the ground killed in the .
Today the area where the plane crashed looks oddly newer than the older homes in the area. I can’t imagine living there, knowing what had happened in 1978. I think alot of those people have no idea what took place…but maybe they do. I no longer live in San Diego, but I always drive by when I visit and say a little prayer.
[Editor’s Note: For more information on the events surrounding the crash of Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 182, please view the record in the AirDisaster.Com Database.]
Some of the words didn’t come through for some reason, so here is a link:
I witnessed PSA 182 as a news photographer assistant with only 3 months on the job. By constantly talking about what I saw, I was able to deal with the mental anguish of this accident.
The day started off when the news crew I was working with started off to our assignment shortly before the accident. I was driving the news vehicle and heading south on the freeway (I-805) when I saw what I thought looked like a large plane plunging out of the sky. I hollered at the reporter in the front passenger seat, “that looks like a 727 on fire going down”. His answer was “holy shit”, my photographer was diving into the back of the station wagon to get the news camera. I accelerated and we lost sight of the PSA flight because of the horizon and did not actually see impact with the ground.
As we started uphill on the freeway towards the accident, my photographer got the news camera up and running, and then saw this big black mushroom cloud rising. I continued driving very fast, got off the freeway at the closest exit to the smoke, drove very fast at the scene, and at the time, there was only 1 police officer there, he totally ignored us, therefore we got extremely close to the scene, actually too close. We were at the northwest side of the accident.
As the my photographer started shooting, I carried the video tape deck and recorded audio with a shotgun microphone. Fire was everywhere, minor explosions going off, and a louder one that sent a piece of wreckage flying head high by us, missing me by about 3 feet, that would have taken my head off. We continued shooting the scene, the first fire truck was showing up and we then worked our way to the south side of the accident where there was no law enforcement nor fire department. The fires were scattered and we actually worked our way into parts of the devastation. This is where I started noticing there were no bodies, just parts. the smell of burning aviation fuel mixed with the smell of burning flesh. There were many body parts all over, the one that sticks out most in my mind, the hand of a flight attendent, I could recognize the uniform.
The sights and smells were utterly devastating, needless to say, I saw things that no one should ever half to see. Eventually, after about 10 to 15 minutes shooting the middle of all of this, law enforcement eventually started to get control of the scene and rope it off. Because the 727 came down at a very steep angle, the accident scene was very compressed, so my photographer and I saw and shot quite a bit before eventaully being moved out of the scene. I remember we stopped and asked a cop on camera about what he knew, and he couldn’t say anything, he just had this haunting look on his face, practically in tears.
There 's a lot more to this story, but I’ll conclude this with the end of my day. The crash was shortly after 9am, I went home around 11pm, my clothes smelled of smoke and dead bodies. The smell was so bad, I threw my clothes out including my shoes. I’m sure walking in the scene as we did, that there had to be stuff on my shoes that shouldn’t have been. I took a 1/2 hour shower trying to get the smell off.
Finally, going to bed, the worst was to come, I had 3 very visual nightmares that night, waking up, heavy breathing, sweaty. 1st I was was the copilot, waking on impact, 2nd I was a passenger sitting next to the wing on fire, and 3rd, I was on the ground looking up at the 727 coming right at me. All very visual and needless to say, I soaked my bed sheets.
On this 30th anniversary, I feel for all those who lost loved ones, I feel for PSA, it was a great San Diego airline. And yes, I’m ok, I didn’t need therapy, I talked about it and as I drive by that scene, if you plugged a VCR into my brain, I could give a vivid replay of seeing PSA 182 divinig to death and my 3 nightmares, as clear today as they were 30 years ago.
My dad grew up around the corner of from the crash site. The story is my grandmother went to the scene to do what she could. As others have described it was a horrific site, but my grandmother was a teenager on Guam during the Japanese occupation of her island in WWII. She had already lived though so much worse. Sometimes it’s impossible to imagine how strong of a woman she was.