Early morning January 21, 1985....a 4 engine Lockheed Electra takes off from Reno Cannon Airport. Onboard 65 passengers, 6 crew. Almost immediately there's a problem.
Pilot Allen Heasley struggled to get his craft back to the airport. He never made it. The plane came down in a field along the east side of South Virginia Street. Witnesses reported at least 2 explosions...maybe more....the aircraft and vehicles at an RV dealership...They were heard miles away. In the mass of flaming wreckage...strewn along and across the street...were the bodies of the victims. There were initially 3 survivors...including 17 year old George Lamson and his father. They and the other passengers had been flying home to Minneapolis after a weekend Super Bowl gambling junket at Lake Tahoe. Lamson's father and another man died later of their injuries. The teenager was only survivor.
Twenty years after the crash you can still start and argument
speculating about the cause of the crash. There were questions about the plane's maintenance record. A witness reported seeing one of its wings on fire before the crash. The official conclusion was pilot error. An open service access door under one wing had caused serious vibration...the pilot incorrectly responded by ordering a reduction in power. Seventy lives lost, many others changed forever.
Today there's nothing to mark the crash site. The thousands who drive by every day or come here to shop know little of its history. The Galaxy crash lives only in the memory of the people who were there. In the aftermath there was talk of a memorial, but fundraising for a planned grove of 70 sequoia trees...one for each victim. came up short. A plaque at Rancho San Rafael Park listing the names of the victims...is the only physical record of the tragedy. But there are those vivid memories.