|legeros.com > History > Eagle Crashes > 1988|
American Eagle Flight 3378 - February 19, 1988
Last updated: March 13, 2018
This page presents information about the emergency response on February 19, 1988, to the crash of American Eagle Flight 3378 at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in North Carolina.
Read NTSB accident investigation report (PDF, 7.7MB)
See also interactive Google Map.
Read detailed narrative (PDF, 12 pages).
On February 19, 1988, American Eagle Flight 3378 crashed at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. The Fairchild Metro III SA227-AC was carrying ten passengers and two crew. It was departing to Richmond. After taking off to the south and banking to the west, a normal maneuver, it reached an altitude of several hundred feet. The plane subsequently dropped and crashed about 5,100 feet west of the midpoint of runway 23R, striking the surface of Brier Creek Reservoir about 100 yards from shore, and then crashing on the west side of the reservoir, located just off airport property in the corporate limits of Cary, along Nelson Road.
The plane apparently skimmed the surface of the lake, struck the bank, and then crashed into tall pine trees. Witnesses reported hearing an explosion and seeing a fireball. The plane crashed at 9:27 p.m. The airport fire department was notified at 9:31 p.m. and arrived at 9:39 p.m. They found debris spread in an area 150 yards long and 50 yards wide. Most of the aircraft completely disintegrated. Small fires were also found at the scene, and promptly extinguished by personnel. There were no survivors.
Durham, Cary, and Morrisville fire departments were dispatched, along with EMS and rescue squads. Eight off-duty members of the airport fire department were also called back, to assist with the crash and overall staffing. Law enforcement agencies included RDU, Wake County Sherriff’s Office, and Raleigh Police Department. Army National Guard members were also called to the scene, and helped enforce the scene perimeter from visiting onlookers. Airport operations were temporarily halted, and runway 23R was reopened at 10:15 p.m. By the end of the evening, a temporary morgue was established at the nearby National Guard Armory, and the scene was sealed from visitors until investigators arrived in the next day.
On Saturday, February 20, a three-member team from the office of the State Chief Medical Examiner arrived to recover and identify body remains. They were assisted by a six-person team from the State Bureau of Investigation. Also on Saturday, thirty investigators from four arrived including ten from the NTSB Safety Board. The remaining twenty were from the FAA, AvAir, and the Airline Pilots Association. Airport firefighters, including off-duty personnel recalled to duty, assisted investigators and medical examiners that day.
On Sunday, February 21, Six Forks Rescue Squad brought boats to the scene, and began dragging operations to recovery debris from the reservoir. The following day, Wake County Parks & Recreation begin draining the lake. Salvage operations were suspended on Tuesday, as draining continued. By Thursday, February 25, most of the investigation team had departed. They expected nine to twelve months to determine probably cause. The following day, the head of the investigation team and a half-dozen remaining members left.
Draining of the reservoir was completed in early march. The full NTSB report was issued in December. Probable cause was failure of flight crew to maintain proper flight path because of first officer’s inappropriate instrument scan, the captain’s inadequate monitoring of flight, and the flight crew’s response to perceived fault in airplane’s stall avoidance system. Cause of death for all determined as massive and traumatic injuries sustained during impact.
Images used with permission of The News & Observer - Raleigh, N.C.
|Roadblock on Nelson Road at Aviation Parkway, one mile from plane crash. February 19, 1998. Robert Willet photo.||Airport officials make statement about plane crash, February 19, 1998. Center is Theresa Damino. Chris Seward, photo.||Emergency vehicles on Nelson Road [?], February 20, 1998. Gary Allen photo.|
|February 20, 1993. Scott Sharpe photo.||NTSB press conference, February 20, 1998. Dorton photo.||View of reservoir and crash site, February 20, 1988. Scott Sharpe photo.|
|Camera operators on the opposite bank of the reservoir, February 20, 1988. Gary Allen photo.||Crash site, February 20, 1988. Gary Allen photo.||Refrigerated truck for victim remains, February 20, 1988. Gary Allen photo.|
|Investigators at crash site, February 21, 1988. Gary Allen photo.||Workers at crash site, February 21, 1988. Gary Allen photo.||Spectators near crash site, February 21, 1988. Robert Willett photo.|
|Security guard Matthew M. Burkhardt, who witnessed the nearby crash, February 21, 1988. Robert Willet photo.||Searching the reservoir near the crash site using Six Forks Rescue Squad boats, February 21, 1988. Gary Allen photo.||Searching the reservoir near the crash site using Six Forks Rescue Squad boats, February 21, 1988. Gary Allen photo.|
|Airport police providing security near crash site, February 21, 1988. Robert Willett photo.||Airport crash truck near crash site, February 21, 1988. Robert Willett photo.||Airport emergency vehicle near crash site, February 21, 1988. Robert Willett photo.|
|NTSB officials at crash site. February 23, 1988. Harry Lynch photo.||Crash site, February 26, 1988. Robert Willett photo.||RDU police officers T. E. Butler (left) and W. E. Beatty, February 26, 1988. Robert Willett photo.|
See this page of information.
Morning Herald (Durham):
News and Observer (Raleigh):
Spot an error on this page? Please let me know, just click my name below...
Copyright 2019 by Michael J. Legeros