On this day in 1982, a Air Florida 727 crashed into the Potomac River. It was an awful day and many people were killed.
It was also a day for heroes, as many recall:
Terrible traffic in Washington that day made it difficult for rescue workers to reach the scene. Witnesses didn’t know what to do to assist the survivors who were stuck in the freezing river. Finally, a police helicopter arrived and began assisting the survivors in a very risky operation.
Two people in particular emerged as heroes during the rescue: Arland Williams and Lenny Skutnik.
Known as the “sixth passenger,” Williams survived the crash, and passed lifelines on to others rather than take one for himself. He ended up being the only plane passenger to die from drowning. When one of the survivors to whom Williams had passed a lifeline was unable to hold on to it, Skutnik, who was watching the unfolding tragedy, jumped into the water and swam to rescue her.
Both Skutnik and Williams (along with bystander Roger Olian) received the Coast Guard Gold Lifesaving Medal.
The bridge was later renamed the Arland D. Williams Jr. Memorial Bridge.
It was a day of tragedy and heroes!