Victims’ families, first responders hold memorial at ValuJet crash site in Everglades for 25th anniversary

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It has been 25 years since ValuJet Flight 592 crashed into the Everglades, killing all 110 people on board, and family members of the victims and first responders returned to the crash site to honor them.

On May 11, 1996, the Douglas DC-9 jet crashed in West Miami-Dade shortly after it took off from Miami International Airport.

“Today, we come together to remember and to honor, to keep fresh in our minds the lives tragically cut short, to consider the infinite possibilities of what could have been to have these lives been given greater opportunity,” retired firefighter Willi Alvarez said.

A federal investigation revealed improperly packaged oxygen canisters sparked a fire that would bring down the jet a few miles west of the airport. The tragedy would bring sweeping safety regulations to airlines.

On the 25th anniversary of the crash, a memorial service and flyover were held to honor the tragic day.

For the first responders and victims’ families in attendance, the loss feels like it happened yesterday.

Jane and Warren Lathem returned to the crash site for the first time since they lost their son, Ray Lathem, in the crash. Ray was on his way home to Atlanta from a mission trip in Venezuela.

“Yeah, I knew in my gut it was the same flight,” Warren said.

“My husband came home and told what had happened,” Jane said. “It’s a little surreal. A lot has happened in 25 years. He was coming back from a mission trip to Venezuela. As a result of that, we started going to Venezuela and established a Methodist, a seminary, a clinic, and so a lot of blessings came from this. It doesn’t make it any easier as far as the pain of missing him and not having him here and seeing him marry and have children, but we know the separation is just for a short time.”

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