Archive for the Airplane crash Category

Disasters In The Air

Posted in Airplane, Airplane crash, Death, Funeral Service Professional, Grief, Life, Losing A Parent, Loss, Memorialization, Mortuary, Mourning, Remembrance, Tragic death on January 31, 2014 by Morguie
English: National Transportation Safety Board ...

English: National Transportation Safety Board image of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 – It is a still of This video (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

14 years ago today, on January 31, 2000, an Alaska Airlines MD-83 crashed into the Pacific Ocean off Point Mugu, California. All 88 passengers and crew aboard were killed.

Disasters—natural or man-made— have the potential to terminate hundreds or even thousands of lives in an instant. These kinds of events may or may not strike with warning. Air crash disasters very often occur following a rapid sequence of events, usually involving a mechanical malfunction or communication failure which have severely disabled a craft’s ability to recover or sustain propulsion to continue. This terrible time, possibly just minutes, is about all the on-board crew and passengers have in the way of a warning.

Victims of air crashes are typically very badly injured, often more so by the intense fire and heat, than the trauma of the crash’s final impact. Unfortunately, recovery of the victims’ remains is a slow process, due to verification on multiple levels to ensure accurate identification of each person.

These sudden deaths are especially difficult for the families who survive the losses. The grief process is complicated by intense shock, disbelief, and complete lack of anticipation or preparation for the possibility of such an event. Further difficulty arises when there is no possibility of viewing the body, which is important in beginning the grief process, in accepting that the death is real. People who must mourn the loss of a loved one through a sudden and traumatic death are encouraged to seek counseling from well-qualified grief counselors.

©C.S. Thompson, 2013-14.

English: Path of Alaska Airlines Flight 261| b...

English: Path of Alaska Airlines Flight 261| before crash (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



US Navy 000202-N-5961C-007 Alaska Airlines 261...

US Navy 000202-N-5961C-007 Alaska Airlines 261 recovery operations (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sundial memorial for the Alaska Airlines Fligh...

Sundial memorial for the Alaska Airlines Flight 261 crash the January 31st, off the coast of California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But what then, does one do if they have a loved one on a flight that simply vanishes?
We’ll speak more about unresolved grief at another time, but we wanted our readers to know that we found a case, about a flight full of passengers, that for no explanation or logical one anyway, simply…disappeared. 
From “Wiki” here:
1951 Canadian Pacific Air Lines Douglas DC-4 disappearance
At 18:35 the DC-4 departed Vancouver International AirportCanada on a scheduled flight to Tokyo; it was due to stop over at Anchorage Airport in Alaska.[2] The flight was on schedule and reported at the Cape Spencer intersection in British Columbia 90 minutes out from Anchorage; it gave an estimate of 24:00 for Yakutat in Alaska.[1][2] The weather in the area was heavy rain and icing conditions with a visibility of 500 feet.[2] Nothing further was heard from the aircraft, and at 00:44 an emergency warning was issued when the aircraft was overdue to report.[1] The United States Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force carried out an extensive search but failed to find any trace of the aircraft or its 37 occupants.[1] The search was finally called off on 31 October 1951.[1]
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2013: A Special Year For Us — Thanks Everybody!!

Posted in Airplane crash, American Military, bereavement, Cemetery, D-Day, Death, Divorce, Embalming Room, Eulogy, FOOD, Friendship, Funeral, Funeral home, Funeral Service Professional, Ghosts, Government Shutdown, Gratitude, Grief, Halloween, Haunting, Heroism, Holidays, Humor, Inspiration, Insurance, Korean War, Life, Losing A Parent, Loss, Love, Memorialization, Mortuary, Mortuary Management magazine, Mourning, Musing, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Patriot's Day, Pets, Poetry, Relationships, Remembrance, Rodeo, Soldiers, Thanatology, Thought For Today, Veterans, WAR, WWII with tags , , , , , , , , on January 23, 2014 by Morguie

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,500 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 58 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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C J Remembers September 11, 2001

Posted in Airplane crash, bereavement, Death, Funeral Service Professional, Grief, Losing A Parent, Loss, Mortuary, Mourning, Patriot's Day, Tragic death with tags , , , , , , , , on September 11, 2013 by Morguie
Jesus Wept

Jesus Wept (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is Patriot’s Day

It seems like it was only yesterday…the tragic day that unfolded for the entire world to watch, in utter disbelief, in unimaginable horror…

We had just returned from a perfect late summer weekend on the river, on Monday, Sept. 10.

SO on Tuesday, a bright and clear high desert day, as we were preparing for work and doing our morning things around the house…I snapped on the television to get an idea of what the weather was going to bring…it felt pretty warm and humid to me and it was only 6’ish! I was sweating and we ladies don’t keep curls for long with sweaty, steamy weather. I saw a building burning…I thought perhaps I was looking at something happening in the Middle East, or Beirut, or in another country…after all I barely glanced at the picture as I quickly made my way back to the vanity in the adjoining bathroom. But then, it got my attention…I was only half-focused on what was being said, then I heard “NEW YORK” and I dropped the curling iron and raced back to see the t.v.

THEN…I screamed for my man, who was in the other end of the house somewhere.

We stood, stunned and dumbfounded. We numbly made our way to our workplace (same employer)and the t.v. was on at work as well. I turned the radio on inside my prep room, where oddly, I was pretty much caught up with my cases. Which was good and bad…good because I wanted to go back to the office to watch the news to learn more…bad because I learned those buildings were gone, and countless millions of terrified people were in the streets of NYC, desperately running for their lives in their mass exodus out of Manhattan. Bad because I had nothing to keep me grounded and my mind focused on ‘other’ details related to my work…bad turned to awful—I felt physically ill and my gut whirled around as my brain tried to make sense of it all, and I was unable to leave early after taking the extended weekend…bad because there were two MORE locations, planes full of innocent people…bad because suddenly I felt vulnerable…almost in fear for my own life. Naked and afraid.

…I felt small and helpless as I sat on the porch step smoking a cigarette, outside the office. I noticed about mid-afternoon, California time, the sky had taken on a quasi-overcast look, and I vividly recall the clouds tinged in orangey-pinkish hues…like the sky gets when there is a wildfire burning nearby. No one spoke, that day, at work. It was just a bizarre, nightmare of an awful day, September 11th, 2001.

 Finally, 5 p.m. came. I desperately wanted to get home. That’s when the magnitude of the day’s events hit like a tsunami. 

From the safety and security of our home,  he and I sat and watched the awful footage and the non-stop, every-channel coverage late into the night. We cried. We barely ate any supper. We cried some more. We watched late into  the night, lay in our bed holding each other tightly as we tried to get a little sleep.

We offered up our support to a death-care group that consisted of people from our profession, and various grief counselors, recovery teams, and other services’ personnel who attended disasters of all kinds around the country. We were thanked but they had enough people, much closer to that disaster of all disasters…so, by day, we numbly performed our duties, and in the evening, we sat, glued to the tube, learning more every hour of the evil people who carried out the evil deeds of the 11th…and we wept.

By the third evening, we just HAD to turn it O-F-F. It had created such a distressful overload watching the loops of dramatic footage and the heartbreaking ‘man-on-the-street’ interviews of people searching for missing husbands, wives, children, parents, firefighters, and missing office workers. Our hearts and minds could not handle anymore.

As I think about that ‘overload’ I must believe that is nature’s way of protecting us from the despair and heartbreaking helplessness we begin to find ourselves moving toward…but also protecting us against becoming desensitized to the essential shock and awful human suffering and pain that day’s events delivered.

We must never forget that day.

To this very day, those images and the remembrances of our nation’s worst domestic act of terrorism and mass-murdering of civilians, bring tears of anger, tears of sorrow, and tears of pride, too. And then I thank my Heavenly Father, yet again, as I do daily, for those men and women in our armed forces…those who give so much of themselves and sacrifice so much, here and abroad, to keep America free from the evil that shook the entire world on September 11, 2001.

And, I would imagine,  that you do too. Another thought that comes to mind:

English: View of Manhattan from a helicopter, ...

English: View of Manhattan from a helicopter, flying over Upper New York Bay. The towers destroyed in the September 11 attacks can also be seen on the island of Manhattan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

’…and Jesus wept.’


©2013, C.S. Thompson.

EPISODE 21 — Final Flight

Posted in Airplane, Airplane crash, bereavement, Cemetery, Death, Grief, Loss, Mortuary, Tragic death with tags , , , , , on July 21, 2013 by Morguie
Cessna 182T 'OK-POH'

Cessna 182T ‘OK-POH’ (Photo credit: Hawkeye UK)


In recent weeks, there was an item in the paper, about 2 small paragraphs in length. It was incredibly brief but hit with huge impact. It described an airplane crash in Alaska that killed two families from Greenville, South Carolina. Go ahead; let that soak in for a minute. There were nine people killed between the two families. That is unspeakably tragic. Imagine being a child who went to school with several of the children in that city. It will be very difficult to explain to that child why their classmates will never again be seated in class or on the playground at recess time.

Sometimes CJ is asked what the very worst sort of thing has been to see in her mortuary career. She says they have been many awful sights before her there, but air crash victims rank at #1 or #2 on the list. Why? Because air crashes involve such force upon impact, but on top of this destructive force, there is nearly always incredible heat from fire. Charred bodies are an awful thing to see, smell, or touch. In addition, thermal stress fracturing causes a body to twist and bend into unnatural poses. Sometimes, when there is a face still visible, it is impossible to avoid thoughts of that person’s final agonizing moments on this earth. The faces are frozen in time showing extremely disturbing expressions which incredible pain and terror are easily read. Usually, though, there aren’t faces.


On a hot summer day, CJ was just finishing up work on a case in the prep-room when the intercom rang. Mr. Becker needed her to accompany him to the crematory. Together they rode in the van out to the cemetery, where the crematory was located. It was quite a lovely, if not scorching day. CJ loved being out in the cemetery. On a good day there wieeUnitretortould be many wild birds, lizards, and even a coyote on occasion. In the evening it would cool with a light breeze and be a tranquil place, indeed.

As they pulled up to the back of the building, CJ’s focus on the work returned. She had no idea what she would be walking into as they entered the large room housing the ‘retort.’ That is an overall word for the massive cremation unit. Mr. Becker’s crematory was only a few years old, so the unit was state-of-the-art. Bright shiny steel with colored buttons and gauges, a digital read-out for the temperature. An electric door opened to reveal a large, smooth brick surface and overhead burners and vents. CJ kept the unit immaculately cleaned; when she finished a body there, she swept every bit of the remains cleanly from the chamber. (Over her short career, CJ would cremate hundreds and hundreds of people.)

Body bag

Body bag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They walked over to the small cooler there and Mr. Becker opened the door to reveal a single body bag on the roller. They needed to decide how to best manage the remains inside the bag. CJ gasped when the bag was unzipped…

Mr. Becker explained that this was all that was recovered from a small Cessna crash in the remote desolate region of the county. This was all that was left of a man and his two teenaged boys.

CJ looked incredulously down at an incredible mass of charred remains, in which a phenomenal amount of shrapnel had become embedded. The thoughts that raced through her mind were unreal; she kept mentally trying to picture this ghastly, massive, burned ‘glob’ as ever having been three separate human beings. It was her first time dealing with such a situation. First air crash remains she’d ever laid eyes on.

This was an exceptionally rare situation indeed. How would they handle this? The laws strictly prohibit the commingling of bodies or remains. There were three people here! In one metal-studded unnatural conglomeration. Mr. Becker said the coroner had documented the condition of the bodies from the accident, along with photographic evidence,   justifying the necessity for all three to be placed into the retort and cremated together. No laws were being broken this time. Only the laws of nature, perhaps. Mr. Becker left her to go back to the mortuary.


CJ numbly completed the paperwork, placed 3 identification medallions into the retort with the glob of bodies, and began the process of finishing what the fiery crash had not — rendering the mass into bony rubble. When the cycles were complete, CJ swept the remains out of the chamber, realizing that before she could pulverize the bone into a powder,  she would first need to hand-pick the shrapnel and metallic bits out. This took a great amount of care and time. She set out three temporary urns, each had their own label affixed, and readied them for filling. She would divide the powder three ways.

 As the remains cooled in the large tray, she read the reports and learned that the man and his sons had come to the U.S. on holiday, from Europe. The father was an experienced pilot who rented the newer plane from a coastal airstrip. They were due to reach their destination about 75 miles east of where the crash had occurred. The witnesses in the local area had observed the attempted landing on a private airstrip, and reported seeing the plane overshoot the dirt runway before crashing into a hill. There were no services at this strip and worse, no water or nearby first responders. The plane burst into flames on impact and the three perished in the fiery wreckage. Tears began to roll down CJ’s cheeks as she signed her name on the cremation documents. All of the urns were to be mailed to an address in Europe. The family had come over without the wife and mother, as she had just had a baby, according to some of the notes the coroner had included in the report.


CJ finished up and silently got into the van when Mr. B returned to pick her up. The beautiful summer day in the cemetery had been forgotten. CJ could not get the tragedy of this day’s tasks out of her head. She quietly offered a prayer for the remaining family, her heart aching for the woman who had probably smiled and blown kisses to her husband and boys as they departed for their adventure. She would soon be receiving them in plastic boxes with only her precious memories of them to comfort her in this most sorrowful time of darkness.

©2013, C.S. Thompson.

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