Painful reminders of Flight 427 crash that took 132 lives continue to surface

PITTSBURGH — All week we've brought you stories remembering US Air Flight 427. It crashed in Beaver County 25 years ago this week. A man who lost his brother in the crash took us out to the crash site to show us something that surprised us the most.

Down a gravel road in a clearing, is a monument dedicated to 132 people who died in US Air Flight 427.

"Hard to believe it's still coming up 25 years later. It really is. It's hard to believe," said Bill Brown. On top of the rock monument, you will find little pieces of the airplane. Painful reminders, still coming to the surface 25 years later.

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"This looks like some kind of insulation," said Brown. "This could be a piece of the fuselage, maybe a part of the glass from the windows. I don't even know what it all is, but there's something with a wire. Whatever that is."

Bill Brown lost his brother Ron in the crash on September 8, 1994. He told us, it's become an unwritten rule to anyone who visits here if you find something, put it on the monument.

"You wouldn't think this long after that it's still coming back up," said Brown. "It's unbelievable. It's unbelievable. Over the years with the freeze and thaw, it's pushing the pieces up still. It tells me that's how deep the impact was and how far down the pieces went. They are still coming up. I think that's amazing that that's happening, but you know the only thing I know is that it just tells me how deep the crater was."

Ron was Bill's older brother. Bill called Ron his mentor and best friend. Bill didn't even know Ron was in Chicago for work that day until his sister called the night of the crash. Brown said he was angry for several years.


"Most of your family deaths are a private thing," said Brown. "Your friends or your family are there to support you, but this was a public death. Everybody in the whole world saw that this plane crash here. It's not private anymore – it's public."

But strangers became family. They helped Brown and others through anger and pain. Seventy-five of the passengers on Flight 427 were from Pennsylvania. Sixty of them from the Pittsburgh area.

"A lot of us are friends, even today," said Brown. "When I see a family member, I don't think of them being a friend out of a tragedy, I think of them as just being a friend. Somebody who understood how I felt."

So on this day, at this monument, in this clearing, Brown leaves behind those new pieces of flight 427. He no longer needs mementos or reminders, as his scars are there forever, and his memories now come from the heart.

"It's tough," said Brown. "I don't think it'll ever go away. You know, there are times – I don't think about my brother Ron as much as I used to. But when I'm having a tough day, a bad day, and it's so weird how many times I've had a really bad day, and I'm driving home from work, and I see a plane fly over. I'm like, 'Ron's here.' I know things will be better – things will be alright that night."

Bill does keep some pieces of the plane, but he says he collected them in the months after the crash.