35 years ago: Northwest Flight 255 crashes after takeoff at Detroit Metro Airport, killing 156

Posted at 9:08 AM, Aug 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-15 09:08:29-04

(WXYZ) — Tuesday marks 35 years since the deadliest plane crash in Michigan history. On August 16, 1987, Northwest 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.

Watch our report from 2012 on the 25th anniversary of the crash in the video player above

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.