CHICAGO -- Kari Milford's life changed forever on July 19, 1989.
She and 295 passengers on United Airlines Flight 232, which was headed from Denver to Chicago, endured 41 terrifying minutes aboard the crippled aircraft, before it crashed into an Iowa cornfield, killing 112 people.
'No amount of money could compensate these people for what they have been through,' said attorney David Rappaport, who is about to start trying claims against the airline and three others.
'Literally, the crash scene looked like a war zone of burned, mutiliated bodies. Kari was the most seriously injured of my clents, suffering broken bones, severe bruising, permanent scarring and emotional trauma. She will never again set foot on an airplane.'
There are few who can forget the television images of crippled DC-10 crashing as it attempted to land on a Souix City, Iowa, runway.
The plane exploded, then cartwheeled off the runway and finally stopped in an adjacent cornfield. Emergency crews, doctors and hundreds of volunteers rushed to the scene to assist the survivors.
Miraculously, 185 survived.
Experts agree that if not for the heroic efforts of Capt. Al Haynes and the flight crew, who landed the plane despite the complete failure of the hydraulic system, many more would have died.
Monday, the first major court case will open in federal court on behalf of nine passangers of Flight 232 before U.S. District Judge Suzanne B. Conlon.
The National Transportation Safety Board in a series of hearings, determined that the cause of the crash was the disintregation of a fan disk in the rear engine of the aircraft, which occurred as a result of a small crack in its surface.
Pieces of the disk were hurled throughout the engine, severing hydraulic lines, leaving pilots no way to control the aircraft.
The defendants are United Airlines; McDonnell Douglas Corp., the designer and manufacturer of the plane; General Electric, the designer and manufacturer of the engine, and Aluminum Co. of America, makers of the material that became the flawed fan disk.
'We intend to show the scope of the disaster, and show the magnitude of wrongful conduct by these defendants,' said attorney Michael Baum, who is representing several survivors.
'We are extremely confident of proving that these defendants are responsible. United Airlines absolutely failed to detect this crack in the fan disk during maintenance inspections.'
Rappaport said some of his clients have not yet recovered from the trauma. While the broken bones, burns, and bruises have healed, all of the survivors have been left with permanent physical and emotional scars.
'This (crash) affects every part of their lives everyday,' he said.
As a result of the crash, many reccomendations have been made to the NTSB and FAA to improve passenger safety, including seating improvements, flight and safety manual changes and new ticketing policies to account for missing infants in the event of an accident.
One particularly strong recommendation came from the Association of Flight Attendants.
AFA spokeswoman Bobby Pilkington said the flight attendants asked the FAA to require airlines to use approved child-restraint seating.
'The FAA did a study which concluded that requiring people to purchase special seating for children would discourage families from flying,' she said. 'The result would be greater numbers choosing to drive, which is much more dangerous. I think that kind of logic is ridiculous.'
FAA spokesperson JoAnn Floane said infant seating regulations are expected to be approved by the end of this month but the rules only will require airlines to allow the use of infant seating devices if a passenger chooses. Parents still will be allowed to travel with infants in their laps.
To date there have been 63 cases filed in fedeal court related to the crash. All but 10 have been settled or dismissed.NEWLN: