Only 4 People Survived This 1995 Plane Crash. I Was One

Michelle Dussan talks about the aftermath of American 965
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 8, 2021 5:55 PM CDT
Only 4 People Survived This 1995 Plane Crash. I Was One
FAA photo of the crash site.   (Wikimedia Commons)

In late December 1995, Gonzalo Dussan spoke with the AP about the plane crash he somehow managed to survive a week earlier—one that killed the New Jersey man's wife, 13-year-old son, and 149 other passengers. Just four survived the American 965 flight from Miami to Cali, Colombia—and Dussan's 6-year-old daughter was one of them. Now, she recounts her recollections of the flight, which was 13 miles off course and smashed into a mountain, to the Guardian. Michelle Dussan says she doesn't recall details her dad does about the plane shuddering and people screaming. She just recalls arguing with her brother about who got the window seat; he moved to sit across the aisle with a cousin. The next recollection she has is waking the following morning, thirsty and in pain.

A jarring passage: "I didn’t know it at the time, but I was buried underground from my waist down and had been stuck, with my seatbelt on, for 13 hours. (I still have the seatbelt marks on my legs.) I guess when we crashed, my legs plunged into the ground. I think it was the warmth of being half-buried that kept me alive, because a lot of other passengers died from hypothermia." It was some time before she was told her family members, including that cousin, had died. She retains some guilt for that argument over the window seat, wondering if her brother might have lived had they not had it. She can walk now, but that's after years spent in a wheelchair and then braces. Operator error was blamed for the crash; a new documentary alleges that might not be the full story. (Read Michelle Dussan's comments in full here.)

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