North Park memorial for 1978 PSA crash that killed 144

Relatives want more than small plaques

Photo from https://www.facebook.com/pages/PSA-Flight-182-Memorial/149177461803120
  • Photo from https://www.facebook.com/pages/PSA-Flight-182-Memorial/149177461803120

Aside from the 22 newer homes and buildings in North Park, a newcomer to San Diego would never know that on September 25, 1978 a total of 144 people died as the result of a midair collision between a single-engine Cessna and a Boeing 727 airliner.

Loved ones of the 135 people onboard the 727, the two pilots onboard the Cessna, and the seven residents who perished hope to change that by building a memorial in North Park, 35 years after the deadliest airline crash in California's history. If approved, members envision a memorial designed by local landscape architects and artists at what is a narrow triangular street median located near the corner of Dwight and Boundary Streets, as first reported by San Diego Uptown News.

On Wednesday, March 26 the PSA 182 Committee will hold their first community outreach meeting at St. Patrick's Church in North Park to present their ideas to residents.

Myra Sulit Pelowski sits on the committee. Pelowski's brother Michael was one of the 144 people who died onboard Flight 182. According to Pelowski, her brother was the last one to board Flight 182 taking off from Sacramento. The graduate of Torrey Pines High School was returning to San Diego to begin his freshman year at UCSD after helping his sister get settled in at the University of California at Davis. At a gathering for the 35th anniversary, Pelowski says she was shocked to see that no permanent memorial had been placed at the site.

"This is still the largest air disaster in California and we want to also give people the opportunity to learn what happened here and understand how aviation safety has improved as a result of this tragedy.

"I was at UC Davis when a priest came to my dorm room on Monday late morning to give me the news. Even as he told me, it didn't seem real," wrote Pelowski in a March 22 email.

Pelowski and the other committee members which include family and friends of those on the planes and residents who witnessed the fiery crash from below want more than the small plaque outside the North Park Library.

"It is our mission as a committee to have a proper memorial listing all 144 souls lost that day placed at or immediately adjacent to the crash site," says Michael Bagnes, another member of the PSA Flight 182 committee.

"I was a 14 year old sophomore at St. Augustine High School when PSA Flight 182 plunged to the ground several blocks from where I stood watching. I was horrified as I not only saw but felt the devastating impact that appeared to me to be in the exact vicinity of my home. The impact point was about 200 yards east of my home; none of homes on my block were affected."

There are more than 1,300 likes on the group's Facebook page. According to a presentation given to a subcommittee for the North Park Planning Group, staff members from Council president Todd Gloria's office asked the group to consider placing a memorial at the library or some other location.

"This project is in its nascent phase," says Gloria's Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Keach.

Proponents have met with Gloria and are trying to work through potential obstacles.

"Our office has asked them to perform proper outreach in the community and try and look into fundraising should the project gain support. It is critical to get input from community stakeholder groups like homeowners adjacent to the proposed site, and the planning group.

"Potential concerns include funding, liability insurance, maintenance, traffic safety, and the fact that this is proposed for a residential area.

"Our office will continue to meet with the proponents and will connect them with the appropriate City staff depending on what form the project takes."

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Don't even want to think about that day. Too close to home.

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