Survivors want memorial for Everglades jet crash


Published: Saturday, December 29, 2012 at 6:25 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, December 29, 2012 at 6:25 p.m.

MIAMI — The survivors of a 1972 jetliner crash in the Florida Everglades are trying to raise money for a memorial honoring the 101 people who died.

Saturday marks the 40th anniversary of the crash of Eastern Flight 401 from New York to Miami. The cockpit crew had become distracted with a faulty landing gear light and didn't notice that the plane was descending into the Everglades. About 75 people survived.

Some of those surviving passengers and crew members say it's time for a permanent memorial to honor the dead. They tell the Sun Sentinel (http://sunsent.nl/UnN8kQ ) that they hope to raise $15,000 for a granite block inscribed with the victims' names.

"We want to get something that's permanent, because the memory lives on forever," said Ron Infantino of Coral Gables, a passenger who survived the crash about 18 miles northwest of Miami.

Infantino and about 40 other survivors and their relatives planned to meet Saturday at the ValuJet Memorial in southwest Miami-Dade County. ValuJet Flight 592 crashed in 1996, killing all 110 people onboard, about 2 miles away from the Eastern crash site.

"That's about as close as we'll get to the actual site," said Beverly Raposa, a flight attendant who kept crash survivors calm by encouraging them to sing Christmas carols until rescuers arrived.

Two flower wreaths are to be placed at the memorial, one for the victims of the Eastern crash and one for victims of the ValuJet crash. Bells were to be rung for each crash victim.

A candlelight ceremony was planned later Saturday at the 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant near Miami International Airport.

The memorial that the Eastern crash survivors want would be placed on the grounds of aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss' mansion in Miami Springs, near the airport.

"In our hearts, it was like yesterday," said Raposa, now vice president of a financial marketing company in West Palm Beach. "In our hearts, we carry 101 passengers and crewmembers who didn't make it out that night."

Infantino's wife of just 20 days, Lilly, died in the accident. They had been returning to South Florida after visiting relatives in New York. He suffered severe arm and leg injuries.

"I was naked in the water for hours before they found me. It was horrible," Infantino said.

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Online:

Eastern Flight 401 tribute website: https://sites.google.com/site/eastern401/

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Information from: South Florida Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), http://www.sun sentinel.com

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