It was a complete coincidence that two plane crashes in Cary, which occurred a few miles and several years apart, had sequential numbers.
Now, American Eagle flights 3378 and 3379 will be brought together. Memorials in a new Cary park will honor those who died in the crashes. It will provide a place of meditation for the survivors and the family members whose lives were changed by the two disasters.
The memorial will be at Carpenter Park, on the corner of Morrisville Carpenter Road and Louis Stephens Drive – about one mile from where Flight 3379 crashed.
Flight 3378 crashed nearly 27 years ago, on Feb. 19, 1988.
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The plane took off from RDU but almost immediately made an improper turn, crashing moments later into the Brier Creek Reservoir along Aviation Parkway. All 12 people on board died.
Flight 3379 crashed on Dec. 13, 1994.
It also crashed due to an error made by a pilot. The plane, coming into RDU, stalled and crashed into woods several miles south of the airport. Fifteen people died, including both pilots. There were five survivors.
One of the survivors of Flight 3379 was Lauren Anderson. Her parents, Marie and Richard Anderson, are two of the driving forces behind the memorial. They’re working with the Family Assistance Foundation and Dee Sherrow, a pilot living in Cary, to raise money and get it built.
The group is in the final stages of raising $75,000 for the memorial, but still needs about $10,000, said Carolyn Coarsey, president of the Georgia-based Family Assistance Foundation. The Town of Cary is planning on opening the park this winter, and Coarsey wants the memorial to be a part of that opening.
Sherrow, a pilot for 45 years, was working for American Eagle at the time of the crashes. He helped investigate the 3378 crash, he said, “seeing things I’d never seen before and never want to see again.”
Sherrow said he has been driven by guilt, on behalf of his fellow pilots, to make the memorial a reality.
Coarsey said friends and family members of the pilots in such crashes must deal with feelings of both grief and guilt, “whether it’s warranted or not.”
And survivors and the family members of crash victims, she said, often feel a sense of isolation. She’s hoping the memorial helps them cope.
The memorial will consist of two long black walls aligned in the flight direction of each crash. There will be five trees in the middle, representing the survivors, and more trees ringing the back, for those who perished.
When it’s built, Coarsey said, her foundation will attempt to bring in as many families as they can find.
“We want you to know that forever, there’s a place you can go and connect,” she said.
Coarsey said American Eagle donated money toward the memorial, and that the foundation has had financial and other support from Cary’s SAS Institute. Coarsey said many former American Eagle employees went to work with SAS.
“Anything that we do, they’re certainly going to help us in any way they can,” she said.
Coarsey said she or the Andersons might be in Cary this spring asking for help raising the rest of the money. The Andersons moved after the crash from New York to western North Carolina to be with their daughter.
David Ferrell also has been involved in fundraising. Ferrell, an assistant firefighter at the time of the 1994 crash, responded to the Flight 3379 crash and came upon Lauren Anderson. The 19-year-old couldn’t walk but was dragging herself up a hill, away from the crash.
He got her propped safely against a tree before rushing toward the plane to look for other survivors, the Andersons said. He has remained in touch with the family all these years.
“She had a broken back, broken leg, oh gosh, a broken collarbone,” Marie Anderson said. “She was pretty messed up. Anyway, (Ferrell) became pretty friendly with us, came to the hospital the next day and apologized for leaving her alone.”
Lauren is now married and a Girl Scouts leader. She’ll be there when the memorial opens.
The Andersons and the Family Assistance Foundation have been using Facebook and the foundation’s website, fafonline.org, to search for people connected to the crashes to update them on the memorial.
Amy Mackintosh, the Town of Cary employee in charge of Carpenter Park, said construction should begin next month. The 16-acre park will have a pond and community garden, walking trails, fields and a playground.
Coarsey said many memorials she has seen have deteriorated, so she’s glad Cary has agreed to adopt this one.
“There’s a lot of people whose lives were changed,” she said. “There always are. There are people all around the world who get connected to towns and cities, oceans, places they never knew existed.”