Heroics suggested in hijack crash

Associated Press

SHANKSVILLE, Pa. — Just before United Airlines Flight 93 crashed, a passenger telephoned his wife, told her the plane had been hijacked and said he and some others were going to "do something about it."

Authorities have not said whether passengers struggled with the hijackers and whether that sent the airliner carrying 45 people into a western Pennsylvania field instead of a high-profile target. Elsewhere, hijacked planes hit New York’s World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon on Tuesday.

As investigators pieced together the events leading to the crashes, loved ones and others speculated Wednesday that the passengers or crew on Flight 93 might have thwarted the hijackers.

"It sure wasn’t going to go down in rural Pennsylvania. This wasn’t the target; the target was Washington, D.C.," said Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa. "Somebody made a heroic effort to keep the plane from hitting a populated area."

"I would conclude there was a struggle and a heroic individual decided ‘I’m going to die anyway, I might as well bring the plane down here.’ "

At least one phone call made from the doomed plane suggested that might be what happened.

Thomas Burnett told his wife, Deena, that "a group of us are going to do something," she said. Burnett learned of the World Trade Center attacks during the four phone calls he made to his wife, and calmly told her that he and other passengers would try to take action against the hijackers.

"He thought he was going to be home. He was going to solve this problem," Deena Burnett told reporters at her home in San Ramon, Calif., Wednesday.

The plane crashed about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh after first flying near Cleveland and then turning around. The plane was said to be flying erratically and losing altitude.

The FBI would not comment on speculation about a struggle on board.

Analysts said recovery of Flight 93’s cockpit voice recorder could be key in determining what happened. FBI assistant agent in charge Roland Corvington said that more than 200 investigators were on the scene and that the search might continue for three to five weeks.

The plane left Newark, N.J., for San Francisco at 8:01 a.m. EDT Tuesday. As it approached Cleveland, radar showed the plane banked left and headed back toward Pennsylvania.

The Cleveland tower said the plane had done some unusual maneuvers, including a 180-degree turn away from Cleveland, and was flying at a low altitude. Johnstown controllers also could not see the plane from their tower, leading them to believe the plane was already very low.

From Johnstown, the plane veered south, Fritz said. Minutes later, the plane slammed into the ground, nose first.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Oso man gets 1 year of probation for killing abusive father

Prosecutors and defense agreed on zero days in jail, citing documented abuse Garner Melum suffered at his father’s hands.

Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin steps back and takes in a standing ovation after delivering the State of the City Address on Thursday, March 21, 2024, at the Everett Mall in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
In meeting, Everett mayor confirms Topgolf, Chicken N Pickle rumors

This month, the mayor confirmed she was hopeful Topgolf “would be a fantastic new entertainment partner located right next to the cinemas.”

Alan Edward Dean, convicted of the 1993 murder of Melissa Lee, professes his innocence in the courtroom during his sentencing Wednesday, April 24, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Bothell man gets 26 years in cold case murder of Melissa Lee, 15

“I’m innocent, not guilty. … They planted that DNA. I’ve been framed,” said Alan Edward Dean, as he was sentenced for the 1993 murder.

FILE - A Boeing 737 Max jet prepares to land at Boeing Field following a test flight in Seattle, Sept. 30, 2020. Boeing said Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, that it took more than 200 net orders for passenger airplanes in December and finished 2022 with its best year since 2018, which was before two deadly crashes involving its 737 Max jet and a pandemic that choked off demand for new planes. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Boeing’s $3.9B cash burn adds urgency to revival plan

Boeing’s first three months of the year have been overshadowed by the fallout from a near-catastrophic incident in January.

Police respond to a wrong way crash Thursday night on Highway 525 in Lynnwood after a police chase. (Photo provided by Washington State Department of Transportation)
Bail set at $2M in wrong-way crash that killed Lynnwood woman, 83

The Kenmore man, 37, fled police, crashed into a GMC Yukon and killed Trudy Slanger on Highway 525, according to court papers.

A voter turns in a ballot on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, outside the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
On fourth try, Arlington Heights voters overwhelmingly pass fire levy

Meanwhile, in another ballot that gave North County voters deja vu, Lakewood voters appeared to pass two levies for school funding.

Judge Whitney Rivera, who begins her appointment to Snohomish County Superior Court in May, stands in the Edmonds Municipal Court on Thursday, April 18, 2024, in Edmonds, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Judge thought her clerk ‘needed more challenge’; now, she’s her successor

Whitney Rivera will be the first judge of Pacific Islander descent to serve on the Snohomish County Superior Court bench.

In this Jan. 4, 2019 photo, workers and other officials gather outside the Sky Valley Education Center school in Monroe, Wash., before going inside to collect samples for testing. The samples were tested for PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, as well as dioxins and furans. A lawsuit filed on behalf of several families and teachers claims that officials failed to adequately respond to PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, in the school. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Judge halves $784M for women exposed to Monsanto chemicals at Monroe school

Monsanto lawyers argued “arbitrary and excessive” damages in the Sky Valley Education Center case “cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny.”

Mukilteo Police Chief Andy Illyn and the graphic he created. He is currently attending the 10-week FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. (Photo provided by Andy Illyn)
Help wanted: Unicorns for ‘pure magic’ career with Mukilteo police

“There’s a whole population who would be amazing police officers” but never considered it, the police chief said.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.