FLIGHT 255: The ambulance dispatcher who covered Romulus the night of the crash shares his story

Earl Fesler could hear the sole survivor crying

August 16, 1987 was a rare quiet night for Earl Fesler, an ambulance dispatcher for several communities including Romulus.
 
All 15 ambulances were on the road and waiting for calls, while Earl, back at headquarters, was thinking about his 33 rd birthday the next day.
 
Fesler would soon forget about any birthday plans when he was jolted from his thoughts by a phone call from his wife.
 
The couple lived just about a mile away from the airport.
 
"She called and asked if there was a plane crash at Metro Airport," Fesler recounts. "She says well there was three real loud thumps...she could see a mushroom cloud."
 
Earl hung up the phone. And then it was chaos.
 
"All of our lines on the phone system lit up," Fesler says. "It was all the police and fire agencies from the whole area calling 'we need ambulances, we got a plane down at Metro Airport'."
 
Those 15 ambulances on the road now had somewhere to be.
 
 "I just kinda hit the microphone and says everybody head for Middlebelt and Wick…we got a plane crash," says Fesler.
 
There was confusion at first as to whether the plane that went down was a cargo or a passenger plane. Soon the grim news came: it was Northwest Flight 255.
 
The plane was headed to Phoenix, but barely made it past Metro Airport.
 
Ambulances were ready to race passengers to hospitals but the news got worse.
 
 "Somebody come on the radio and said it doesn't look like we're going to be transporting anybody, and then you just sink…it's the worst of the worst," says Fesler.
 
Then a glimmer of hope.
 
"Next thing I hear 'we're transporting to Annapolis Hospital, we have a 4-year-old',' says Fesler. "And I can hear the little girl crying in the background. And I'm like alright we have somebody that survived."
 
Besides dispatching ambulances, Earl's role was to relay patient information to the hospitals.
Today, 25 years later, Earl, who now serves as Livonia's fire marshal, still thinks about that girl, Cecilia Cichan, and is thankful he played a small role in her survival.
 
 "While I'm writing down my report to give to the hospital, I can hear the little girl in the background crying, so it's not like she's unconscious, we got an alive and awake little girl in that ambulance," remembers Fesler. 
 
And every August 16, and anytime he drives by the airport, Fesler still remembers the accident and the looks of the ambulance crews when they came back to the office.
 
"Seeing their faces and you could just see that they saw the worst thing they ever seen," recalls Fesler. "And they all smelled like kerosene from walking through all the fuel and each one of them with their own different descriptions of what kind of impact it made on them."
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