On Nov. 15, 1987, 28 of 82 passengers and crew members died when Continental Flight 1713 crashed shortly after takeoff. More than half the people killed in the flight from Denver to Boise lived in or had family in Idaho. The dead included the Gem County prosecutor, two students in the Melba FFA and an adult traveling with them. Survivors have moved on, but the deads loved ones still struggle with their loss.
Nov. 15, 1987, 1:03 p.m.
The DC-9 headed to the de-icing pad at Denvers Stapleton International Airport.
Toward the front of the plane, 20-year-old Laura Hobbs settled in between a man and woman who, even seated, towered over her.
About 800 miles away in the Treasure Valley, unsuspecting friends and family members sat down to watch the Seattle Seahawks take on the Green Bay Packers. Dan Popkeys story on the Idaho Statesmans front page that Sunday disputed the myth of flight safety.
In Emmett, Edna Rood called the Boise Airport and asked when Continental Flight 1713 would arrive. Her son, Gem County Prosecutor Cy Rood, and his wife, Ruth, were on the flight, returning from a conference in Florida.
De-icing was finished. The flight was almost two hours late.
Boise native Ann Nasrallah, 22, was ready for the trip to end. Traveling from Jacksonville, Fla., to Boise with her sons, 6-month-old Peter and 2-year-old Anthony, was hard enough when everything went as planned.
The control tower cleared Flight 1713 for takeoff; 46 seconds later, the airplane sped to 100 knots. It left the ground briefly, reaching a maximum speed of 165 knots.
That was when everything went wrong. The plane lurched to one side, then the other, and came crashing back to earth.
The left wing struck the ground first. In the chaos that followed, the fuselage broke into at least three pieces.
One of the breaks was just behind Hobbs. Her row of seats was jerked loose and thrown from the plane. Upside-down, the seats skidded next to the runway at frightening speed, Hobbs face a half-inch from the ground.
I remember thinking, Oh, my God, just get this over with. Im going to die, she said.
Then the ride ended. The row of seats tipped back and the passengers looked up into the snow falling in the Denver afternoon.
Hobbs said she thought she was in heaven.
Back in Idaho, TV stations cut into the football broadcast with news of the crash.
Edna Rood turned to her husband: That was the kids plane.
Nov. 16, 1987
Nerves got the best of Tony Nasrallah.
By the time he arrived in Denver, he was in physical pain, stress eating at his psyche. His mind was beginning to warp reality.
People he described as some Continental executives, I suppose, told him they had a couple Jane Does in the hospital and two young children in the morgue. They asked him if he could identify the boys. They wanted to show him pictures, but he refused.
My initial belief was and maybe this was part of denial Well, the only reason the Lord would let my children die is that Im going to go to the morgue and Im going to lay my hands on them and theyre going to be healed, Nasrallah said. Thats how my brain was trying to process this.
They took him to a room and a glass window, and on the other side a stretcher and two tiny bodies.
They made me identify them that way, he said. And I tried to bust through to the other room and I had to be restrained. Just wanted to hold them.
At the hospital, he didnt recognize Ann Nasrallah, who was in a coma. Her face was so badly swollen that hospital staff estimated she was in her 50s. Only her wedding ring could confirm she was his wife.
They said she probably wouldnt make it. He spotted a window and swore that hed jump to his death if she died.
Nov. 17, 1987
It was Cy Roods 47th birthday.
His mother had arrived, heartbroken, in Denver the day after the crash. A sign greeted her and her husband. It read Rood. A woman took them to see their sons and daughter-in-laws bodies.
I cried. I thought I would never stop crying, Rood said.
Nov. 18, 1987
Jim told John cigarettes would kill him. John told Jim flying was dangerous.
It was all a joke. Jim Marria was 38, the owner of a Boise lawn-care company, when he boarded Flight 1713. After the crash, he hung on for a couple of days in the hospital.
At Jims funeral, before they spread the dirt, his brother played their joke one last time.
I put a pack of smokes inside his jacket pocket, told him he could smoke, John Marria said.
Fear wasnt going to ground Hobbs.
She had things to do things that required her to be in far-flung places.
She boarded a plane to Washington, D.C., for Future Farmers of America training.
I bawled all the way there. Tears just streaming down my face, she said. But I was silent.
In some ways, Tony Nasrallahs recovery took longer than his wifes. Anns brain and bones healed, and her memory returned.
Tony languished. He was angry. He didnt understand why God took his children.
His way back came through an abandoned movie theater in Jacksonville. He and his wife founded a nonprofit, brought in Christian bands and reached out to young people looking for an alternative to the drugs-and-alcohol scene.
Hobbs is married now. She goes by Laura Johnson. She serves as chief of market development for the Idaho Department of Agriculture. Her neck still bothers her.
Edna Rood is 96 and sharp as a tack. Her house in Emmett has hot pink trim.
John Marria isnt very talkative on the subject of Continental 1713. He said his brothers death just left a nice little hole in the family.
The Nasrallahs have two sons, ages 20 and 22. When they were younger, they kind of looked like their older brothers. Ann will never stop missing Peter and Anthony, but shes made peace with their loss.
Tragedy happens all over the world, she said. Its just there, and how we choose to deal with it ... determines the course of the rest of our lives. So I dont feel like I was being picked on or any of us on the flight were being picked on. Its just life.
Sven Berg: 377-6275