34 years ago: Northwest Flight 255 crashes after takeoff at DTW killing 156

Northwest Flight 255 memorial
Posted at 9:18 AM, Aug 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-16 09:18:19-04

(WSYM) — It’s been 34 years since the deadliest plane crash in Michigan history.

On August 16, 1987, Flight 255 took off from Romulus headed for Arizona — it didn’t make it far.

Investigators blame a number of pilot errors on the crash, but the most important takeaway is the lives lost: 156 people were killed that day, all but one person on-board and two people who were in vehicles near I-94 and Middlebelt Road.

The firefighters who arrived that night had no idea what lied ahead. The initial call for a plane crash shed little light on the fact that it was a passenger plane — Lt. John Thiede, of the Romulus Fire Department, explained his rescue efforts to 7 Action News in 2013. He explained that he and another firefighter had heard a faint moan, or cry, and were trying to locate where it was coming from.

“I was checking three or four passengers, after about the fourth one I saw a chair upside down,” explained Thiede. “I moved the chair to the right and checked the lady underneath, there was no vital signs on her then I saw the arm coming out of the chair.”

That arm belonged to Cecelia Cichan — she’s since married and now goes by Cecelia Crocker.