April 19, 2014

A key figure in the crash of Flight 232 in Sioux City dies

A pilot who helped saved the lives of 184 people in a plane crash in Sioux City has died at the age of 69. Dennis Fitch died Monday after battling brain cancer. Woody Gottburg has more.

On July 19, 1989, Fitch was a United Airlines pilot and flight instructor who happened to be a passenger on United Flight 232 when it lost all its hydraulic power while flying from Denver to Chicago. The DC-10 crash-landed in Sioux City, killing 111 people. Fitch and 184 others survived, due largely to his troubleshooting from the cockpit floor where he was assisting the airliner’s main pilot, Captain Al Haynes, as he and the crew struggled to control the plunging jet.

United pilot Mike Hamilton says what happened that day has become “a case study in how a crew could work together in an emergency.”

Governor Terry Branstad released this statement on Fitch’s death:
“The crash of Flight 232 was an exercise in heroism, both on the ground in Iowa and in the skies above it. Along with Captain Al Haynes, Dennis E. Fitch saved 184 lives that summer day. Friends and family from across the country were able to enjoy another day, more weeks and countless years with the survivors due to Dennis Fitch’s steady hand and sound judgment. As we also solemnly remember the 111 victims of that day’s horrific moment, we will proudly remember Dennis E. Fitch as a hero who did all he could to save every passenger on that July day in 1989. Our thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family.”

By Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City