Families remember Flight 4184, loved ones
Last Updated: 49 days ago
NEWTON COUNTY, Ind. - In a Newton County soybean field, 68 crosses have been put up, taken down and put back up again over and over for the last 19 years.
The crosses represent the victims of American Eagle Flight 4184, which crashed in a remote field on Oct. 31, 1994, after ice coated the turboprop's wings during a flight from Indianapolis to Chicago.
Now, as the 20th anniversary of the tragedy approaches, those left behind are pushing for a permanent memorial to be erected.
Jennifer Stansberry Miller of Fishers, Ind., said the cross display is difficult to maintain because the crosses -- some adorned with photos and mementos of victims -- must be removed and replaced by volunteers every time the roadside grass is mowed. She and other members of the group Families of Flight 4184 are working to raise money informally for the new permanent memorial.
"Our goal is to create something meaningful and well thought out that does not require the maintenance the crosses have for 19 years," she said.
Miller, whose 27-year-old brother, Brad Stansberry, died in the crash, said she and many other relatives of the plane's four crew members and 64 passengers said the time is right for a permanent marker.
"Because of the draw and because of the importance of the land in that area … to me personally, and to my family, this is something I feel very strongly about," Miller said. "This allows us something that is well thought-out, that in 1995 we did not necessarily consider."
There are preliminary plans of what the Roadside Memorial Garden will look like. The wall will stand 3-feet high and 15-feet wide on each side. There will be 68 bricks engraved with passengers' and crew members' names.
American Eagle has already donated a check toward the construction. Stansberry is trying to get ATR, the French manufacturer of the ATR-72 plane that crashed, to make a similar donation.
Miller said she is proud of the hard work she and other family members have done to make airlines more accountable and more sensitive after crashes. The crash of flight 4184, and the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800, led to the passage of the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1996. The legislation requires air carriers to have plans detailing the notification of family members about an accident, the training of support personnel, the management of personal effects and the coordination of memorials.
Miller said her group needs to raise $100,000 to construct the memorial and provide maintenance money over the years.
If you would like to contribute to the memorial fund, you can make out your checks to "Families of 4184," 309 E. Rand Road, Suite 192, Arlington Heights, Illinois 60004.
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