KUSA- It was one of the most violent commercial airline crashes ever caught on camera. In 1989, United Flight 232 was coming from Denver and heading to Chicago when it came in for an emergency landing at the Sioux City, Iowa Airport and crashed. In all, 111 people died and 185 survived.
Next month marks the 25th anniversary of that crash. It left a legacy which changed some fundamental things about the way certain airplane systems function, making it safer for all of us to fly. For two of the survivors, though, the crash also changed them on a very personal level.
"To me, lucky would be never having gone through something like this," Bruce Benham said,
From his office high above the Denver metro area, he keeps mementos close at hand. They are reminders of people who touched his life nearly 25 years ago.
"I just think the world of Al Haynes," Benham said.
That is Captain Al Haynes, who back on July 19, 1989, guided United Flight 232 into the Sioux City Airport with the failure of the second engine and no working hydraulic system to steer the plane. NBC station KTIV in Sioux City was the only station to capture what happened as the plane hit the runway violently.
"I do remember thinking,'when is this going to kill me?'" Benham said.
Then, he felt it all came to a stop. In the end, 111 people would die. However, despite initial reports there were no survivors, 185 people lived to tell the tale of what happened.
One of those was Benham; the other was Brad Bayless.
"Until I saw the footage, I thought we had tumbled a number of times, instead of just once," Bayless said.
In the aftermath of the crash, a reporter asked Bayless if he knew Bruce Benham, who had been sitting in front of him on the flight. Bayless didn't, but it turns out, they lived less than a half-mile away from each other in Denver.
"That's just too unique and rare," Bayless said. "So, I picked up the phone, looked up the number and called Bruce."
They met up at a restaurant and have been friend for 25 years.
"We dog sat for one another. Bruce's boys babysat our kids," Benham said.
The two now plan on returning to where their friendship began, back to Sioux City for a commemoration of the 25th anniversary.
"I'm looking forward to seeing the flight crew and the flight attendants that saved our lives and thank them again," Bayless said.
They also want to remember those who didn't make it.
"Its mixed emotions when you reflect back on it," Benham said. "A lot of mixed emotions."
Next month, Sioux City will host a three day commemoration of the crash. A number of survivors are expected to be there and all of the still-living flight crew who are credited with helping so many people survive that violent crash.
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