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Accident Ranks as L.A. Airport's Worst Ever

September 01, 1986

Sunday's collision between an Aeromexico DC-9 and a light plane over Cerritos was the deadliest accident in the history of the Los Angeles International Airport and the worst air disaster in California since 144 people died in a similar tragedy in San Diego in 1978.

It was the worst U.S. air crash since 137 people were killed Aug. 2, 1985, when a Delta Airlines L-1011 Tristar, en route from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Los Angeles, crashed on landing at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

The worst previous major crash involving the Los Angeles airport took place on Jan. 18, 1969, when a United Airlines jet plunged into the Pacific off Marina del Rey, killing 37. Only five days earlier, in the first fatal accident directly connected with the airport, a Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) DC-8 plunged into the sea eight miles from shore on a landing approach in bad weather and broke in half. Fifteen died, but 30 others survived in a portion of the plane that remained afloat.

Four passengers were killed and seven injured in 1978, when several tires blew out on a Honolulu-bound Continental Airlines DC-10 as it took off from LAX. The jetliner tipped on one wing and fuel from the ruptured wing tanks ignited.

The worst air travel disaster in California--and, at the time, the worst domestic crash in U.S. history--occurred on Sept. 25, 1978, over San Diego.

As in Sunday's crash in Cerritos, a light plane and a jetliner collided. The wreckage of the Pacific Southwest Airlines jet and the Cessna 172 rained destruction on the quiet residential neighborhood of North Park.

The accident claimed the lives of 137 people on the two planes and seven on the ground.

In California, similar crashes occurred in 1975 when a Cessna 150 collided with a Golden West Airlines Dehavilland Twin Otter over Whittier, killing 14, and on Aug., 24, 1984, when a Beechcraft on a training flight crashed into a Wings West twin-engine propjet just northwest of San Luis Obispo, killing 17.

The worst accident in American history occurred on May 25, 1979, when an American Airlines DC-10 crashed on takeoff in Chicago, killing 273.

The world's worst air disaster took place on March 27, 1977, when two Boeing 747s, operated by Pan American World Airways and KLM, collided at the Tenerife Airport in Spain's Canary Islands, killing 582.

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