Friends and families gather for Flight 255 memorial

(WXYZ) - Families and friends gathered in Romulus Thursday night to remember the 156 people that were killed when disaster struck at Detroit Metro Airport 25 years ago.

At the time, it was the second deadliest aviation disaster in U.S. history.


Only one girl survived when Northwest Flight 255 crashed on take-off, just after 8:45 p.m., on August 16, 1987.

Two people on the ground were also killed when the plane stalled in midair, hitting a light pole at the end of the runway before tearing into a nearby rental car building and then slamming into Middlebelt Road, near the I-94 overpass.

The flight was headed to Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix and most of the people onboard were from the Phoenix area.

The only survivor of the crash, Cecelia Cichan, was four years old at the time of the crash. Both her parents and her brother were killed. She has only recently talked about the crash in an interview for the documentary Sole Survivor .


In the years since the crash, a memorial to the victims has been built near Detroit Metro Airport, in Romulus, at the scene of the crash. Family members of the victims have also gathered near the scene for memorial vigils

Ahead of the memorial, family members are coming in from across the country and several spoke to Action News Reporter Michael Rosenfield on Wednesday at a local hotel where many are staying.

Mary Ann Ratliff lost her 16-year-old daughter Hidi Ja. She was Mary Ann's only child. Hidi Ja, the girl with the unique name, had been in Ohio visiting her dad and she was on her way back to California.

"I always kind of equated it like losing your right arm," said Mary Ann. "You get used to it, functioning without it, but you're always going to miss it."

Ratliff fought back tears as she remembered her 'little dynamo'. Hidi Ja was buried with her cheerleading uniform.

Tony Zanger lost his 23-year-old brother Michael, and Michael's fiancee Hollins Langton. The couple, originally from Monroe County, had been living in Arizona. They were in town for Hollins' bridal shower.

Zanger says questions still haunt him.

"What would they be like today, where would they be living, would they still be travel agents, how many children would they be having," wonders Zanger.

In Erie, Pennsylvania, Aimee Hoffman-Moore said goodbye to her sister Christine who had been visiting to celebrate family birthdays. Hours later she would learn Christine, a lieutenant in the Army, was on board the fatal flight. Aimee says her sister, who was a daredevil, for some reason cried uncontrollably before leaving for the airport.

"She was not afraid of anything and that night was the only night in all of her travels...that she was literally in crushing tears, just absolutely would not come out of the house," remembers Hoffman-Moore.

In Roscommon, in northern Michigan, Sue Moy would lose her 28-year-old sister Laura Thorell, Laura's husband Larry, and the couple's one-year-old daughter Krista. The young family had just started building their lives.

"They just bought a new house, they didn't even have the boxes unpacked," says Moy. "They were just very simple people. My sister was one of those homemakers that loved to cook and sew and do crafts. And she just loved being a mother."

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