You can purchase the book about this disaster, upon which the movie was based, by clicking on the link below.


Cheesy movie about the Delta 191 crash. 


DFW Airport, Delta Flight 191
August 2, 1985, 1805:58 Hours
Personal account of (then) Firefighter Paramedic,
Mica Calfee,
Irving Fire Department

One hot summer day in 1985 I was sitting outside of our fire station number 6. This was an interesting station at which to work. The location provided us with a wide variety of calls. The proximity of a major highway gave us major accident runs. This engine was also first up to a rather large area of apartments. Probably five to ten thousand people or more live in the apartments in this engine’s area of responsibility. There were fancy million dollar homes and there were run down wood frame houses in an obvious low rent district. We could see anything, on any given shift.

The driver of our engine, Kerry Johnston, was not the usual operator. The assigned driver was off duty and Kerry was the usual firefighter. He was moved up to drive for the day. This is why I was at this station, they needed a firefighter. The two things that I found most interesting about this station was the training tower out back and the fact that this fire engine was completely roofless. These fire engines without tops on their cabs are often referred to as “convertibles” but this is not the case. To call them such would imply the possibility of putting up some type of cover to protect the occupants in the event of bad weather. No such possibility existed. They were just open cabs. When it rained, you got wet. This may have been why I was outside the station watching the weather. Rain was predicted for that evening and I could see dark clouds to the northwest.

E6 & Capt. Thompson cir. 1985.
Notice the absence of a roof.

I felt fortunate to be at Station Six. It was unusual for me to either be off an ambulance or at least not at a station with a reserve ambulance. As much as I enjoyed being a paramedic I certainly appreciated the break and the opportunity to fight some fire. It felt strange to be at a station with only three people. The stations I saw most of the time had two to four times the personnel. I would be one of many paramedics at these stations. At Station Six I was the only paramedic so when we arrived at the scene of a heart attack or automobile accident I was the most trained. This made me feel really special about the situation. After all, I had three years experience as a paramedic, I had just about seen it all, right? (Little did I know how much more there was to see in the next twenty-five years, or even the next few minutes.)

Where we were the sun was shinning and it was still a pretty day, when the call came in. “Possible structure fire the area of Highway 114 and Freeport.” That was at the north end of DFW airport. We were situated at the southeast end of the airport. DFW has their own fire department. If there really is a fire they might be there to help us fight it as well. We would most likely be the second engine arriving at this scene. Station seven was much closer than we were and they would bring an engine and a truck. Before we were half way there we could see a large cloud of black smoke. I was a little excited because if was a fire it could be a big one. There were many large buildings in this area. The dispatcher was now trying to relay the fact they have received numerous calls on this incident and the reports were conflicting. Some people said there was some kind of explosion. Others said it had something to do with lightning striking a building. From where we were it had the look of a brush fire. The smoke was not coming from one source, but seemed to stretch across the horizon. My captain asked the dispatcher if they wanted us to return to the station for the A-Wagon. This is a light pumper used for grass fires. They said for us to continue as we were.

When we turned onto Highway 114 we were suddenly hit with a blinding rain and wind. The absence of a roof on this vehicle made for an interesting few moments. We were unable to see the road at all. When we pulled up to where we thought we should be, we found, Engine 7, Truck 7 and a car that had been destroyed by some kind of serious accident. We could not tell much because of the rain and wind. At one point the wind was so forceful it was all we could do to keep from being blown away. We could not stand without the aid of some structure or vehicle. As I grasped the fire engine I swear I felt it move sideways. I was told that some remains of the occupant of the car had been found. But where was the truck that had hit this automobile?

The rain and wind began to let up and I thought there might be more to this scene than we could see. I climbed to the top of the fire engine and looked around. That’s when I saw it. Your mind can play tricks on you. If you are certain you cannot see what you are seeing your mind will tell you it is not there. I was looking out over DFW airport. Just a few hundred yards from me was a blackened part of an aircraft. My mind struggled to make sense of this. What did this have to do with the traffic accident where we were? The building is on the airport property. At this end, were freight terminals. The wreckage of the plane was not large. In my head I pictured a small airplane carrying freight and few passengers had crashed. I climbed down and told Captain Thompson. His comment and decision was clear. He said, “Then we need to be over there don’t we?” He instructed Kerry to get us there. We drove up the highway, crossed the median and returned just a little closer to where I had seen the wreckage. There was no way for the fire engine to drive into the field so the Captain and I dismounted and started for the shadow on foot.

The entire time we walked my eyes were seeing things that challenged my brain to make sense of. I had no idea what to expect. We walked twenty yards apart in what appeared to be water and fuel over knee deep. There were metal automobile parts, camshafts, strewn as far as I could see. When lightning struck the ground a hundred yards west of Captain Thompson I think we both questioned the wisdom of our situation. By now I could see more of the airplane’s fuselage. It was obvious to me it had been a small plane and it’s dark color still told me it was some minor fright carrier. Little did I know this had been a Delta Airlines L-1011 capable of carrying over one hundred and fifty passengers. As I approached what I now know to be a water tank I was startled by seeing something I had not expected, two people laying face down in the water. I quickly turned them over to see if there was anything I could do. They appeared unharmed except for the fact they were dead. They did not have any blood on them and most of their clothes were missing. I am not saying they were nude. They had on underwear at least but many of the people I saw that day had somehow lost most of their outer clothing. When I came upon these first two I had to try to convince myself of the possibility of more then just a few passengers might be on this airplane.

As I approached the center of the crash area I saw people walking. Some were injured, some seemed to be from the terminals and businesses in the area. I looked around and saw many people dealing with bodies. People on backboards, people being helped to walk by others. I suddenly realized what we were dealing with. My thoughts flashed to the drill we had with DFW just a few weeks before. The practiced drill had consisted of setting up a field full of people pretending to be injured. They had makeup on to simulate wounds of every type. We learned how the airport fire department had a supply trailer that would have a person in it to dispense equipment. I thought about the need to set up a triage, treatment, and transportation area. Now questions came to mind. Did we have all the patients located? How many paramedics did we have on the scene? What do I do now? Where do I start?

I did not have time to think about how little I knew. People everywhere recognizing me as a rescuer and a paramedic, came up to me and starting asking me what to do. Like I had a clue. The first thing that came to my mind was, locate patients. There was a large ditch, the beginnings of a creek, just past the tail section. I quickly organized the people into a line to sweep just past the wreckage to look for survivors. We found none. Suddenly I realized I should be in triage. That’s where they would need paramedics. I went to look for triage while my captain started organizing rescue efforts for people still trapped in the fuselage tail section.

I found where patients on backboards were being brought. There were about ten patients I could see laid out in a row on the tarmac. Nearby there were a handful of ambulances arriving and as I approached I saw the supply trailer being parked. None of the patients appeared to have been triaged or prioritized. Perhaps they had been, I still don’t know. The minute I was within sight of the patients, a man standing over one of them called to me. He said, “Can you help her?” I asked if anyone had examined her yet. He indicated that she had not been seen by anyone and again asked if I could do something. I decided to at least triage her. All I wanted to do was a quick exam, ABC’s and blood pressure. She was breathing in a strange way. She did not appear to have any obvious injuries but she would not respond to my attempts to determine consciousness. I picked up some of the medical equipment someone had scattered about. When I took her blood pressure I was shocked. It was sixty over zero! Did she have some internal injuries? Was she bleeding inside? All I had intended to do was triage her. I looked to my right and left. Each patient by now had at least one person working on him or her. Some patients were covered in blood with broken limbs. Others, still alive, were burned beyond recognition.

Just as I was taking this lady’s blood pressure our engine driver found me. He had managed to bring the engine in and was there to help. He had just received his EMT certification and asked what he could do to help. I told him there should be a trailer on the other side of these ambulances. There he will find someone dispensing supplies. “Tell him you need an IV setup.” As Kerry disappeared I proceeded to locate a vein. At that moment, Jack Ayres, an attorney who also happens to be a paramedic and works with Parkland Hospital approached me. I had done some work for him on my part-time job so he knew me by name. He called my name and asked if I could give him an idea of the number of casualties. I estimated there to be around two dozen. As it turns out this was very accurate. He also asked if I was talking about serious trauma. I thought, of course major trauma. What he did not understand was I was talking about total patients. There were many minor injuries and some passengers with no injuries at all.

Kerry returned with the IV of Ringers and using the BP cuff I started the line. I felt with a blood pressure this low, this lady needed fluids. I asked Kerry to run this liter of liquid into her as rapidly as possible while I tried to start another IV. All the time this man that had brought this woman to triage stood by to help me. After starting the first IV I couldn't decide what to do with the used IV needle. Had we been on dirt I would have pushed it as far into the ground as possible to prevent someone from being stuck by it. I decided that under the backboard might be a relatively safe place. In a very short period of time we were ready to transport her. There were suddenly more ambulances than we knew what to do with. Paramedics from many cities were there to help. A Dallas paramedic placed a cervical collar on her. Others helped secure her in place. As we began to lift the backboard this patient was on, I needed to pause to remove the fourteen gauge IV needle from my finger. The same needle I was concerned about was now firmly embedded in the end of the ring finger of my left hand. It was in the tip so it stuck straight out parallel to the finger like a plastic and steel extension. As I removed the needle, blood poured from the perfectly round hole left there. Four of us carried her to a waiting ambulance. We placed her inside and I noticed the gentleman that had been there for the entire time was getting in the ambulance with her. I took his arm to inquire as to why he was doing this. He asked if he could go with her to the hospital. I asked him why he would want to do this. "Do you know this lady sir?" I asked. “She’s my wife.” He said. I told him to get in and informed the paramedic in the ambulance of the situation.

A few days later this couple would be on network morning television telling of their experience. He would tell of how as the plane crashed they held on to each other but when he opened his eyes she was gone. He had located her by first finding her belongings.

According to Fox 4 this is a shot of the scene that day.
This is actually taken from a video they aired on the anniversary of that day.
That is me in the right hand corner, but I have no exact recollection of this moment.

After placing our patient in the ambulance we readied ourselves for more of the same but it was not to be. Very few were found alive after that. Over one hundred and twenty-five people lost their lives and their bodies were all around us. A trauma doctor from Parkland Hospital came up to me and expressed disbelief. Jack Ayres compared it to scenes in Southeast Asia. Later that night my wife would tell me of how she and my five year old son were watching the coverage on television. It was obvious to him she was looking for a glimpse of me. All he could hear is how many had been killed or injured. At one point he had to ask her,“Is daddy dead?” Kerry and I stood in front of the television later that night watching the news. His words summed it up best. “I can’t believe we were just there.”

Years later they would make a movie about Flight 191 called "Fire and Rain". In it I played the part of an Irving paramedic at the crash. I received forty-five dollars a day and a meal for my "acting" ability.

In 2005 (20 years after the crash) I was asked to appear on "Good Morning Texas" to talk about that day. It was during this interview that they actually reunited me, by phone, with the person I worked on that day.

At one time you could watch the entire interview, including footage of the crash scene, at:

Unfortunately it appears to no longer be available. If you find it somewhere, please let me know.

USA Today story.

For more information on Delta Flight 191 go to:

For a technical report of the cause of this crash you can go to:

If any of these links do not work, please let me know through the contact page.


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