ValuJet Flight 592
ValuJet Flight 592 was a scheduled domestic passenger flight between Miami International Airport
Miami International Airport
Miami International Airport , also known as MIA and historically Wilcox Field, is the primary airport serving the South Florida area...

, Miami
Miami, Florida
Miami is a city located on the Atlantic coast in southeastern Florida and the county seat of Miami-Dade County, the most populous county in Florida and the eighth-most populous county in the United States with a population of 2,500,625...

, Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

, and William B. Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport , known locally as Atlanta Airport, Hartsfield Airport, and Hartsfield–Jackson, is located seven miles south of the central business district of Atlanta, Georgia, United States...

, Atlanta, Georgia
Georgia (U.S. state)
Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

. On Saturday, May 11, 1996, the McDonnell Douglas DC-9
McDonnell Douglas DC-9
The McDonnell Douglas DC-9 is a twin-engine, single-aisle jet airliner. It was first manufactured in 1965 with its maiden flight later that year. The DC-9 was designed for frequent, short flights. The final DC-9 was delivered in October 1982.The DC-9 was followed in subsequent modified forms by...

 aircraft flying that route crashed in the Everglades
The Everglades are subtropical wetlands in the southern portion of the U.S. state of Florida, comprising the southern half of a large watershed. The system begins near Orlando with the Kissimmee River, which discharges into the vast but shallow Lake Okeechobee...

 approximately 10 minutes after take-off, killing all 110 persons on board.


The DC-9
McDonnell Douglas DC-9
The McDonnell Douglas DC-9 is a twin-engine, single-aisle jet airliner. It was first manufactured in 1965 with its maiden flight later that year. The DC-9 was designed for frequent, short flights. The final DC-9 was delivered in October 1982.The DC-9 was followed in subsequent modified forms by...

 aircraft used on this route was previously owned by Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines, Inc. is a major airline based in the United States and headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. The airline operates an extensive domestic and international network serving all continents except Antarctica. Delta and its subsidiaries operate over 4,000 flights every day...

 and was 27 years old. On the afternoon of May 11, 1996, Flight 592 pushed back from gate G2 in Miami after a delay of 1 hour and 4 minutes due to mechanical problems. There were 105 passengers, mainly from Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

 and Georgia
Georgia (U.S. state)
Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

, on board, as well as a crew of two pilots and three flight attendants, bringing the total number of people on board to 110. At 2:04 pm, the DC-9 took off from runway 9L and began a normal climb. At 2:10 p.m. the flight crew noted an electrical problem. Seconds later, a flight attendant entered the cockpit and advised the flight crew of a fire in the passenger cabin
Cabin (ship)
A cabin or berthing is an enclosed space generally on a ship or an aircraft. A cabin which protrudes above the level of a ship's deck may be referred to as a "deckhouse."-Sailing ships:...

. Passengers' shouts of "fire, fire, fire" were recorded on the plane's cockpit voice recorder when the cockpit door was opened. Though the ValuJet flight attendant manual stated that the cockpit door should not be opened when smoke or other harmful gases might be present in the cabin, the intercom was disabled and there was no other way to inform the pilots of what was happening. By this time, the plane's interior was completely on fire.

The crew immediately asked air traffic control
Air traffic control
Air traffic control is a service provided by ground-based controllers who direct aircraft on the ground and in the air. The primary purpose of ATC systems worldwide is to separate aircraft to prevent collisions, to organize and expedite the flow of traffic, and to provide information and other...

 for a return to Miami due to smoke in the cockpit and cabin. Captain Candi Kubeck
Candi Kubeck
Candalyn Kubeck was the captain of ValuJet Flight 592, which crashed in the Everglades. She was the first female captain to die in a commercial airline crash....

 and First Officer Richard Hazen were given instructions for a return to the airport. One minute later, the First Officer requested the nearest available airport.

Flight 592 disappeared from radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

 at 2:14 p.m. and crashed in Browns Farm Wildlife Management area in the Everglades, a few miles west of Miami, at a speed in excess of 500 miles per hour (804.7 km/h). Kubeck, Hazen, the three flight attendants, and all 105 passengers aboard were killed instantly. Recovery of the aircraft and victims was made extremely difficult by the location of the crash. The nearest road of any kind was more than a quarter mile (400 m) away from the crash scene, and the location of the crash itself was a deep-water swamp with a bedrock
In stratigraphy, bedrock is the native consolidated rock underlying the surface of a terrestrial planet, usually the Earth. Above the bedrock is usually an area of broken and weathered unconsolidated rock in the basal subsoil...

 base. The DC-9 shattered on impact with the bedrock, leaving very few large portions of the plane intact. Sawgrass
Cladium is a genus of large sedges, with a worldwide distribution in tropical and temperate regions...

, alligator
An alligator is a crocodilian in the genus Alligator of the family Alligatoridae. There are two extant alligator species: the American alligator and the Chinese alligator ....

s, and risk of bacteria
Bacteria are a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a wide range of shapes, ranging from spheres to rods and spirals...

l infection
An infection is the colonization of a host organism by parasite species. Infecting parasites seek to use the host's resources to reproduce, often resulting in disease...

 from cuts plagued searchers involved in the recovery effort.


Residences of passengers: |Passengers |Crew |Total
2 0 2
2 0 2
99 5 104
Unspecified 2 0 2
Total 105 5 110

Notable passengers killed on the flight included:
  • San Diego Chargers
    San Diego Chargers
    The San Diego Chargers are a professional American football team based in San Diego, California. they were members of the Western Division of the American Football Conference in the National Football League...

     running back
    Running back
    A running back is a gridiron football position, who is typically lined up in the offensive backfield. The primary roles of a running back are to receive handoffs from the quarterback for a rushing play, to catch passes from out of the backfield, and to block.There are usually one or two running...

     Rodney Culver
  • Songwriter and musician Walter Hyatt
    Walter Hyatt
    Walter Hyatt American singer and songwriter. His band, known as Uncle Walt's Band, was involved in the alternative music scene in Austin, Texas, from its inception and is credited by many with being the Godfather of Americana Music or the Original Americana Artist, never easily pegged into any one...

  • Del-Marie Walker, murder suspect
  • Former Miami Hurricanes football
    Miami Hurricanes football
    The Miami Hurricanes football program competes in the Atlantic Coast Conference of the NCAA's Division I Football Bowl Subdivision for the University of Miami. The program began in 1926 and has won five AP national championships...

     offensive lineman Robert Woodus

The oldest person aboard the jet was 84-year-old Conway Hamilton of Miami, and the youngest was 5-year-old Clark McNitt of Powder Springs, Georgia
Powder Springs, Georgia
Powder Springs is a city in Cobb County, Georgia, United States. The population was 13,940 at the 2010 census.- History :The town of Powder Springs was incorporated as Springville in 1838 in the lands of two Cherokee Indian chiefs, Chief Nose and Chief Ana Kanasta . Gold had been discovered in...


The majority of the passengers were from Georgia
Georgia (U.S. state)
Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

 and Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

; there were also passengers from Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

, North Carolina
North Carolina
North Carolina is a state located in the southeastern United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north. North Carolina contains 100 counties. Its capital is Raleigh, and its largest city is Charlotte...

, Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

, Indiana
Indiana is a US state, admitted to the United States as the 19th on December 11, 1816. It is located in the Midwestern United States and Great Lakes Region. With 6,483,802 residents, the state is ranked 15th in population and 16th in population density. Indiana is ranked 38th in land area and is...

, and Tennessee
Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. It has a population of 6,346,105, making it the nation's 17th-largest state by population, and covers , making it the 36th-largest by total land area...

 on the flight. There was also a woman bound for Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

 and a man from Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 on Flight 592.

COPS (TV series)
Cops is an American documentary/reality television series that follows police officers, constables, and sheriff's deputies during patrols and other police activities...

 happened to be taping with the Miami-Dade Police Department
Miami-Dade Police Department
The Miami-Dade Police Department , formerly known as the Metro-Dade County Police Department , Dade County Public Safety Department and the Dade County Sheriff's Office is a Limited Service County Police Department serving Miami-Dade County, Florida's unincorporated areas, although they have...

 when the accident occurred. As a result, one of the episodes aired in the 1996-97 season features some of the first 911 calls and the initial investigations into the accident.


The NTSB investigation eventually determined that the fire that downed Flight 592 began in a cargo
Cargo is goods or produce transported, generally for commercial gain, by ship, aircraft, train, van or truck. In modern times, containers are used in most intermodal long-haul cargo transport.-Marine:...

 compartment below the passenger cabin. The cargo compartment was of a Class D design, in which fire suppression is accomplished by sealing off the hold from outside air. Any fire in such an airtight compartment will in theory quickly exhaust all available oxygen and then burn itself out. As the fire suppression is accomplished without any intervention by the crew, such holds are not equipped with smoke detectors. However, the NTSB determined that just before takeoff, expired chemical oxygen generator
Chemical oxygen generator
A chemical oxygen generator is a device releasing oxygen created by a chemical reaction. The oxygen source is usually an inorganic superoxide, chlorate, or perchlorate. A promising group of oxygen sources are ozonides. The generators are usually ignited mechanically, by a firing pin, and the...

s were placed in the cargo compartment in five boxes marked COMAT (Company-owned material) by ValuJet's maintenance contractor, SabreTech, in contravention of FAA regulations forbidding the transport of hazardous materials in aircraft cargo holds. Failure to cover the firing pin
Firing pin
A firing pin or striker is part of the firing mechanism used in a firearm or explosive device e.g. an M14 landmine or bomb fuze. Firing pins may take many forms, though the types used in landmines, bombs, grenade fuzes or other single-use devices generally have a sharpened point...

s for the generators with the prescribed plastic caps made an accidental activation much more likely. Rather than covering the firing pins, the SabreTech workers simply duct tape
Duct tape
Duct tape, or duck tape, is cloth- or scrim-backed pressure sensitive tape often sealed with polyethylene. It is very similar to gaffer tape but differs in that gaffer tape was designed to be cleanly removed, while duct tape was not. It has a standard width of and is generally silver or black...

d the cords around the cans, or cut them, and used tape to stick the ends down. It is also possible that the cylindrical, tennis ball can-sized generators were loaded onboard in the mistaken belief that they were just empty canisters, thus being certified as safe to transport in an aircraft cargo compartment. SabreTech employees indicated on the cargo manifest
Manifest has different meanings. It may refer to the following:Arts* Manifest , the Melbourne Anime FestivalBusiness* Manifest Limited, the UK marketing companyComputing...

 that the "canisters" were empty, when in fact they were not.

Chemical oxygen generators, when activated, produce oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

. As a byproduct of the exothermic
In thermodynamics, the term exothermic describes a process or reaction that releases energy from the system, usually in the form of heat, but also in the form of light , electricity , or sound...

 chemical reaction, they also produce a great quantity of heat. These two together were sufficient not only to start an accidental fire, but also to produce enough oxygen to keep the fire burning. The fire risk was made much worse by the presence of combustible aircraft wheels in the hold. Two main tires and wheels and a nose tire and wheel were also included in the COMAT. NTSB investigators theorized that when the plane experienced a slight jolt while taxiing on the runway, an oxygen generator unintentionally activated, producing oxygen and heat. Laboratory
A laboratory is a facility that provides controlled conditions in which scientific research, experiments, and measurement may be performed. The title of laboratory is also used for certain other facilities where the processes or equipment used are similar to those in scientific laboratories...

 testing showed that canisters of the same type could heat nearby materials up to 500 °F (260 °C), enough to ignite a smouldering fire. The oxygen from the generators fed the resulting fire in the cargo hold without any need for outside air, defeating the airtight fire suppression design. A pop and jolt heard on the cockpit voice recording
Cockpit voice recorder
A cockpit voice recorder , often referred to as a "black box", is a flight recorder used to record the audio environment in the flight deck of an aircraft for the purpose of investigation of accidents and incidents...

 and correlated with a brief and dramatic spike in the altimeter
An altimeter is an instrument used to measure the altitude of an object above a fixed level. The measurement of altitude is called altimetry, which is related to the term bathymetry, the measurement of depth underwater.-Pressure altimeter:...

 reading in the flight data recording
Flight data recorder
A flight data recorder is an electronic device employed to record any instructions sent to any electronic systems on an aircraft. It is a device used to record specific aircraft performance parameters...

 were attributed to the sudden cabin pressure change caused by a semi-inflated aircraft wheel in the cargo hold exploding in the fire.

Smoke detectors in the cargo holds can alert the flight crew of a fire long before the problem becomes apparent in the cabin, and a fire suppression system buys valuable time to land the plane safely. In February 1998, the FAA issued revised standards requiring all Class D cargo holds to be converted by early 2001 to Class C or E; these types of holds have additional fire detection and suppression equipment.


The NTSB report placed responsibility for the accident on three parties:
  • SabreTech, for improperly packaging and storing hazardous materials,
  • ValuJet, for not supervising SabreTech, and
  • the FAA, for not mandating smoke detection and fire suppression systems in cargo holds.

In 1997, a federal grand jury charged SabreTech with mishandling hazardous materials, failing to train its employees in proper handling of hazardous materials, conspiracy
Conspiracy (crime)
In the criminal law, a conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to break the law at some time in the future, and, in some cases, with at least one overt act in furtherance of that agreement...

, and making false statements. SabreTech's maintenance supervisor, Daniel Gonzalez, and two mechanics who worked on the plane, Eugene Florence and Mauro Valenzuela, were charged with conspiracy and making false statements. Two years later, having been found guilty on the mishandling hazardous materials and improper training charges, SabreTech was fined $2 million and ordered to pay $9 million in restitution. Gonzalez and Florence were acquitted on all charges, while Valenzuela failed to appear and was indicted in absentia
In absentia
In absentia is Latin for "in the absence". In legal use, it usually means a trial at which the defendant is not physically present. The phrase is not ordinarily a mere observation, but suggests recognition of violation to a defendant's right to be present in court proceedings in a criminal trial.In...

for contempt of court
Contempt of court
Contempt of court is a court order which, in the context of a court trial or hearing, declares a person or organization to have disobeyed or been disrespectful of the court's authority...

. Valenzuela is still a fugitive as of 2011; he was specifically highlighted in the EPA's announcement of a Website to search for "environmental fugitives."

In 2001, the United States 11th Circuit Court of Appeals
United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit is a federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the district courts in the following districts:* Middle District of Alabama...

 reversed the SabreTech guilty verdict in part. In so doing, the panel concluded that federal law at the time of the crash could not support a conviction for mishandling hazardous materials and that the government did not prove that SabreTech intended to cause harm. The panel did, however, uphold the conviction for improper training, and on remand, the District Court sentenced SabreTech to a $500,000 fine, three years' probation, and no restitution.

Just before the federal trial, a Florida grand jury indicted SabreTech on 110 counts of manslaughter
Manslaughter is a legal term for the killing of a human being, in a manner considered by law as less culpable than murder. The distinction between murder and manslaughter is said to have first been made by the Ancient Athenian lawmaker Dracon in the 7th century BC.The law generally differentiates...

 and 110 counts of third-degree murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

: one for each person who died in the crash. SabreTech settled the state charges by agreeing to plead no contest
Nolo contendere
is a legal term that comes from the Latin for "I do not wish to contend." It is also referred to as a plea of no contest.In criminal trials, and in some common law jurisdictions, it is a plea where the defendant neither admits nor disputes a charge, serving as an alternative to a pleading of...

 to a state charge of mishandling hazardous waste and to donate $500,000 to an aviation safety group and a Miami-Dade County charity.

SabreTech was the first American aviation company to be criminally prosecuted for its role in an American airline crash. The company, a subsidiary of St. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is an independent city on the eastern border of Missouri, United States. With a population of 319,294, it was the 58th-largest U.S. city at the 2010 U.S. Census. The Greater St...

-based Sabreliner Corporation, went out of business in 1999.

ValuJet was grounded by the FAA on June 16, 1996. It was allowed to resume flying again on September 30, but never recovered from the crash. In 1997, the company merged with AirTran Airways
AirTran Airways
AirTran Airways, a subsidiary of the Dallas, Texas-based Southwest Airlines, is an American low-cost airline headquartered in Orlando, Florida. AirTran operates over 650 daily flights , primarily in the eastern and midwestern United States...

. Although ValuJet was the nominal survivor, the ValuJet name was so tarnished by this time that it was scrapped in favor of the AirTran name.

Many families of the Flight 592 victims were outraged that ValuJet was not prosecuted, given the airline's poor safety record. ValuJet's accident rate was not only one of the highest in the low-fare sector, but 14 times higher than those of the major airlines. In the aftermath of the accident, an internal FAA memo surfaced questioning whether ValuJet should have been allowed to stay in the air. The victims' families also point to statements made by ValuJet officials immediately after the crash that appeared to indicate the company knew the generators were on the plane, and in fact had ordered them returned to Atlanta rather than properly disposed of in Miami.

A National Geographic Seconds From Disaster episode covered the crash.


On the third anniversary of the accident in 1999, a memorial was dedicated to the victims in the Everglades. The memorial, consisting of 110 concrete pillars, is located just north of Tamiami Trail
Tamiami Trail
The Tamiami Trail is the southernmost of U.S. Highway 41 from State Road 60 in Tampa to U.S. Route 1 in Miami. The road also has the hidden designation of State Road 90....

 about 11 miles west of Krome Avenue in Miami-Dade County and points to the location of the crash site eight miles to the north.

Previous similar incidents

In 1986, an American Trans Air McDonnell-Douglas DC-10 being serviced at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport
O'Hare International Airport
Chicago O'Hare International Airport , also known as O'Hare Airport, O'Hare Field, Chicago Airport, Chicago International Airport, or simply O'Hare, is a major airport located in the northwestern-most corner of Chicago, Illinois, United States, northwest of the Chicago Loop...

 was destroyed by a fire caused by an oxygen generator. In 1988, American Airlines flight 132 (a McDonnell-Douglas MD-80, the successor airplane to the DC-9) had a similar accident. A fire began in the cargo hold, caused by hazardous materials (primarily hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is the simplest peroxide and an oxidizer. Hydrogen peroxide is a clear liquid, slightly more viscous than water. In dilute solution, it appears colorless. With its oxidizing properties, hydrogen peroxide is often used as a bleach or cleaning agent...

), but the crew landed the aircraft safely. After this incident, the NTSB recommended to the FAA that all class D cargo holds have smoke detectors and/or fire suppression systems.

See also

  • List of accidents and incidents on commercial airliners
  • Eastern Air Lines Flight 401
    Eastern Air Lines Flight 401
    Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 was a Lockheed L-1011 Tristar 1 jet that crashed into the Florida Everglades on the night of December 29, 1972, causing 101 fatalities...

     - Another airliner crash in the Florida Everglades

External links

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