Reporting Ron Jones
SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Four decades after the deadliest plane crash in Sacramento history, rescuers are still having nightmares.
Almost two dozen people died at a Sacramento ice cream parlor in 1972, when a plane slammed into the building.
Many of the victims were children. And on Sunday, a memorial was held at the crash site to not only remember the victims, but all the lives saved decades later.
September 24, 1972, was a horrible day in Sacramento history.
“It brings bad memories; there’s no doubt about it,” said retired Sacramento firefighter Bruce Kanoff.
Even though it was four decades ago, it’s still freshly etched on the faces and in the emotions of those who were there.
Twenty-two people died at the Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor on Freeport Boulevard.
“It was crowded Sunday afternoon, full of people and it was just a recipe for disaster,” said one survivor.
A pilot of a vintage plane leaving an air show at Executive Airport lost control and slammed into the business packed with families.
Of those who perished, 12 of them were children.
“We really didn’t know what hit us,” said survivor Kerri Francis McClusky.
McClusky and her twin sister were just 4 years old. They were with family friends waiting for ice cream when the plane made a violent and fiery entrance.
“Everything happened so fast,” said McClusky.
McClusky survived but her twin didn’t.
“I pulled up in the Farrell’s ice parking lot about 15 minutes before the plane crash. I saw the people lining up,” said Kanoff.
Kanoff saw and heard everything, the crash, the screams for help, and the kids. But digging through the rumble, he found a miracle.
“After we pulled it out, we found a little hand waving,” said Kanoff.
The little girl was one of many who did survive.
“It was so chaotic; you don’t remember a lot of stuff,” said one survivor.
Making it more chaotic was the lack of know-how to treat burn victims.
“There were just too many people that were hurt and needed help, and there wasn’t enough bed space or professional know-how with how to deal with the burns or types of traumatic injuries,” said McClusky.
There are now two world-class burn units, Shriner’s and UC Davis, which were inspired by a 40-year-old disaster.
Organizers say Shriner’s Hospital and UC Davis Burn Center have saved thousands of lives since that disaster.