It really seems that plane crashes are happening more and more often these days. Almost once a week, there seems to be a news report on yet another flight that has disappeared over a rocky mountain range or a remote part of the ocean. But, one of the most tragic plane crashes of the last one hundred years took place in 1985, without much fanfare or a long investigation. Here’s the story of Eastern Airline Flight 980’s tragic demise, as well as some new developments in the case…
Keep reading to learn about this strange story — and just wait until you see the gross discovery on slide 3!
#12 The Trip
On New Year’s Day in 1985, Eastern Airlines Flight 980 lifted off from Miami International Airport. It was bound of Asuncion, Paraguay — one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The two pilots, ten crew members, and nineteen passengers on board were expecting an uneventful flight. Unfortunately, that’s not quite what happened…
#11 The Crash
At 8:38PM, the plane made contact with the control tower. All was well. They were thirty miles out from Asuncion, and were traveling at about 20,000 feet. The crew had just offered passengers refills on their drinks and were now preparing for landing. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the plane crashed into a mountain at 18,900 feet altitude.
#10 Mount Illimani
The mountain that the plan slammed into was Mount Illimani, a mountain that sits close to the border of Bolivia and Paraguay. The particular site where Flight 980 crashed was on Bolivia’s side of the mountain. This led to some conflict over which country had to send investigation crews, but these problems were quickly resolved!
#9 The Search Begins
After determining that the search and rescue efforts were Bolivia’s responsibility, that country’s government quickly dispatched their Air Force to attempt to locate any survivors. Unfortunately, fresh snow and an avalanche made it nearly impossible for anyone to live more than a few hours. That wasn’t the only issue with the expedition, though…
#8 Rough Terrain
The area where the plane had crashed was frozen, rocky, and at an extremely high altitude. Despite specialized training, the Air Force troops dispatched to the scene commonly suffered altitude sickness. After just a few days of searching, it was determined that the expedition was too dangerous to continue. Thirty years later, two brave souls would try again…
#7 Two Brave Souls
In early 2016, Dan Futrell and Isaac Stoner decided to take their own expedition to the site of Flight 980’s remains. These Massachusettes roommates had “hiked a lot in college,” but still needed to take several months to acclimate to the extremely high altitude and to plan their intrepid ascent.
#6 A Different Plan
Futrell and Stoner decided to follow a different map than the other expedition groups. They believed that it was likely that some of the plane’s remains had fallen down the mountain. So, in October 2016, the two men set out for a location on Mount Illimani that was about 3,000 feet LOWER than the known crash location. Little did they know, this was exactly the kind of fresh thinking the hunt needed…
#5 The Black Box
After a few days of searching, Stoner and Futrell stumbled across a piece of orange metal that had been buried by snow and ice. After excising it, they discovered that it was actually a “black box,” or a device that records cockpit audio and tracks it along with GPS coordinates. They thought that this discovery was a game changer! Sadly, it was so damaged that authorities do not believe they will be able to recover any information from it.
#4 “Normal Stuff”
As they continued to survey the scene, Stoner and Futrell discovered the plane’s engine, as well as lots of everyday, mundane objects. For the men, finding all this seemingly “normal stuff” was humbling for them. For the first time, they realized that they were dealing with real human lives that had been lost.
#3 Getting Creepy
The men knew they were getting close to the site of the actual wreckage when they discovered a human femur bone. Because of the frozen tundra up on the mountain, it still had pieces of skin and fat intact! This was definitely creepy for the two explorers. But, little did they know, they were about to discover what they were looking for all along…
In a suitcase among the wreckage, Stoner and Futrell found well-preserved bags of money totaling TWENTY MILLION DOLLARS! They later learned that this money belonged to Enrique Matalo, a known mafia member and drug dealer. Could someone have wanted him lead and caused the plane to crash? The world may never know…
#1 Who Did It?
Despite the brave expedition led by Dan Futrell and Isaac Stoner, it is likely that we will never learn exactly why Eastern Airlines Flight 980 crashed in 1985. But, the more we learn, the more it seems to have been related to Enrique Matalo’s involvement with the mafia. We guess you really have to be careful who your friends are!
The story of Eastern Airlines flight 980 is certainly spooky. Even though we won’t ever know exactly what caused this otherwise normal and well-maintained plane to go careening into a mountain in 1985, we can remember that there were real people on board. They had stories, and personal belongings, and friends and families they were leaving behind. Their loved ones went through tragedy, and the brave expedition taken on by Dan Stoner and Isaac Futrell hopefully has given them some peace!
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