DALLAS, Ga. - People packed into a local restaurant Sunday to remember 72 people killed in a plane crash in Dallas, Georgia in 1977.
The date was April 4, 1977. Southern Airways flight 242 was flying from Huntsville, Alabama to Atlanta when the pilots made the decision to make a forced landing after getting caught in a severe thunderstorm.
Frederick Clemens was in the 19th row when he heard the right engine fail.
“I started listening for the left engine to see if it was going to be OK but same thing happened,” Clemens said.
Both engines of the DC-931 were knocked out.
The plane lost power and its windshield was cracked by hail. Now they were gliding down facing the inevitable
“We got the signal to assume the brace position,” Clemens said.
Then impact on Dallas Acworth Highway in New Hope, in Paulding County.
“Every jolt became more severe. Unknown to me what was happening to me forward parts of plane getting destroyed or torn off,” Clemens said.
Clemens said a fire broke out next to him and he wasn't scared anymore.
“I had this feeling of calm come over me and instead of being afraid to die, I was actually looking forward to it,” Clemens said.
“I closed my eyes and the next thing when I opened them, I was no longer in the plane I was lying on my back in the dirt in some place that I've never been,” Clemens said.
Sixty three people aboard the plane died, including the flight crew and nine people on the ground. A total of 72 perished. Twenty passengers survived, along with two flight attendants.
A restaurant, Rodney's Barbecue, was the exact site of the crash scene.
Sadie Burkhalter Hurst, whose house was near the crash site, said it’s still painful to think about
“The majority of the debris was in the front yard and the passengers were mostly in the front yard,” Hurst said. “It is painful. It brings back so many sad memories.”