Local News

Cary memorial names fallen from pair of Triangle plane crashes

Posted May 14, 2016 10:53 a.m. EDT
Updated May 15, 2016 11:03 a.m. EDT

— Family and friends of dozens of people lost in ​the crashes of American Eagle Flights 3378 and 3379 gathered Saturday in Cary to remember them.

Survivor Lauren Anderson was among those who gathered at Cary's yet-unfinished Carpenter Park for the dedication of a memorial to those who died on her flight, American Eagle 3379 from Greensboro, in 1994, and others who perished in the crash of American Eagle Flight 3378 in Cary in 1988.

Anderson was 18, a college freshman, going home for Christmas, when she curled into a fetal position and braced for the end.

"It was cold. It was raining. I couldn't breathe," she recalled. "I was in the wreckage. There was fire all around me."

It was the evening of Dec. 13, 1994, when the commuter plane stalled short of Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

An investigation concluded that low visibility and an improperly trained pilot contributed to the accident.

"It's very heavy on my heart," Anderson said, listening as the names of the dead rang out on Saturday.

Anderson, with broken bones from her face to her ankles, was among five people who survived. Fifteen others died.

"For so many years, people would say, 'You're alive! You have a purpose!' What is my purpose," Anderson asked. "My purpose is to honor and remember."'

She and her parents worked the non-profit Family Assistance Foundation to raise money for the Cary memorial.

Alexander Kast, who lost his oldest brother on Flight 3379 said the memorial provides a physical space for his grief and memories.

"It's a very special thing for us, specifically because we now have a place to go to and remember him," Kast said Saturday.

In 1988, all 20 people aboard American Eagle Flight 3378 died when it crashed in Cary. An investigation showed that the flight's crew failed to perform standard duties during takeoff with low visibility.

The memorial will be the centerpiece of the park on Morrisville-Carpenter Road. Saturday's dedication was followed by a reception at Good Hope Baptist Church.