Cary News

Cary plane crash memorial honoring victims, survivors of American Eagle flights to be dedicated

Workers apply some of the finishing touches to the landscaping surrounding the new memorial in Cary’s Carpenter Park that honors the victims and survivors of American Eagle Flights 3378 and 3379, which both crashed in western Wake County. The memorial will be dedicated May 14, 2016.
Workers apply some of the finishing touches to the landscaping surrounding the new memorial in Cary’s Carpenter Park that honors the victims and survivors of American Eagle Flights 3378 and 3379, which both crashed in western Wake County. The memorial will be dedicated May 14, 2016. hgargan@newobserver.com

American Eagle Flights 3378 and 3379 – two tragedies separated by six years, four miles, and a single digit – will be remembered together with the dedication of a memorial Saturday.

The structure in Cary’s Carpenter Park, about one mile from the Flight 3379 crash site, honors the 27 people who died in those crashes and the five who survived them.

The memorial’s completion comes 28 years after Flight 3378 crashed shortly after takeoff on Feb. 19, 1988, into a reservoir near Raleigh-Durham International Airport. It’s been 22 years since Dec. 13, 1994, when Flight 3379 went down in Morrisville while trying to land.

The two wing-shaped stones, inscribed with the names of those aboard each flight, are surrounded by trees and bushes, which honor the survivors as well as the victims.

Carpenter Park, a $2.9 million park being built on 16 acres on Morrisville Carpenter Road, is still under construction. It eventually will have a playground, walking trail, community garden and basketball and pickleball courts.

There will be a 10 a.m. ceremony at the memorial, followed by a reception at nearby Good Hope Baptist Church.

Donna Davenport, who lost her 33-year-old sister, Marcia Ferris, in the 1988 crash, said she wasn’t aware of any efforts to bring those affected together immediately after the crash in 1988. Nor has anyone tried in the intervening years to connect that group with families associated with Flight 3379, she said.

As a result, many survivors, families and first-responders associated with the crashes will meet each other for the first time at the dedication.

“I read about the other families in the paper, but 28 years passes, and you’re still, well ...” she said, pausing. “There was a lot, and just trying to deal with my own grief, it’s kind of good it took this long. Had it been right afterwards, that would have been very difficult.”

Davenport said she contributed to the memorial, which cost about $50,000 to build and was partially funded by a $25,000 donation in 2013 from American Airlines, the parent company of American Eagle. She’ll be at the dedication, along with her children and husband, who will say the opening prayer.

Marie Anderson, whose daughter, Lauren, was one of the survivors of the 1994 crash, kept in touch with the EMT, David Ferrell, who found Lauren in the woods after the crash. Anderson began contacting families about the memorial in early 2010 and asked Ferrell around that time if he knew of a suitable place for it. He suggested approaching Cary about a potential site, about a mile from where Flight 3379 went down, on land he sold the town back in 2007.

“Then we set up a fundraising effort, and we actually raised more money than we needed,” Anderson said. “People were so generous. They were so happy that we hadn’t forgotten about these people.”

Anderson lives in Asheville and now works with the Georgia-based Family Assistance Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to working with families and survivors after tragedies, which helped organize the effort to bring the memorial to fruition.

About 150 people are expected to attend the dedication so far, said Dede Young, an administrator with FAF.

But after so many years, it’s been a challenge contacting survivors, first-responders and victims’ loved ones to inform them of the new memorial. Carolyn Coarsey, FAF’s co-founder and managing director, said she’s been trying to get the word out in public spaces so those associated with the crashes can decide on their own terms whether to attend. Coarsey lost her fiancé when he was a passenger on Delta Airlines Flight 191, which crashed in 1985 near the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, killing 137 people.

“You put it out there and tell them how to reach you so they don’t have to go through the trauma of someone bringing it up,” she said.

It seems that’s worked in at least one case, if somewhat indirectly, for Davenport.

“I just kind of found out about (the memorial) by chance when one of my customers mentioned something about it,” said Davenport, who works as a hairstylist in Rocky Mount. “People have moved on, and they didn’t know how to get in touch with people.”

That’s partly because the memorial, as Anderson originally conceived it, was for the victims and survivors of Flight 3379. She didn’t know, then, about Flight 3378.

But Dee Sherrow, a pilot who was on the runway behind Flight 3378 when it took off, saw a Facebook post about her efforts. He asked whether the memorial could include that crash and if he could get involved in fundraising.

“It seems like the more people that hear about it, the more we hear from people who were involved at the time who don’t know about this,” Coarsey said. “We really want them to come.”

Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan

Two flights

▪ American Eagle Flight 3378 crashed Feb. 19, 1988. The plane took off from Raleigh-Durham International Airport and crashed shortly after takeoff into the Brier Creek Reservoir along Aviation Parkway. All 12 people on board died.

▪ American Eagle Flight 3379 crashed Dec. 13, 1994. The plane was coming into RDU but stalled and crashed south of the airport in nearby woods. Fifteen people, including both pilots, died. Five people survived.

If you go

▪ The memorial dedication is Saturday, May 14, at 10 a.m. at Carpenter Park, 1580 Morrisville Carpenter Road, Cary, near the intersection with Louis Stephens Drive. A reception will follow at Good Hope Baptist Church, 6628 Good Hope Church Road, Cary.

▪ Attendees are asked to RSVP by emailing dede.young@fafonline.org or calling 404-881-2895.

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