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Story of 1978 San Diego Plane Crash Covered in New Documentary

The McClellan Law Firm

It remains California's worst aviation disaster and, at the time, was the deadliest commercial plane crash in American history. Still, for more than 30 years, no one has told the full story of Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) Flight 182.

It was September 25, 1978 - a hot day in San Diego. The PSA flight had left Sacramento earlier that morning, stopped briefly in Los Angeles, and was preparing for a landing at San Diego's Lindbergh Field. At the same time, up ahead, a small Cessna practiced maneuvers directly in the larger plane's path.

From the cockpit transcript, it's clear that the pilots of PSA Flight 182 believed they had passed the Cessna when, in actuality, they were quickly overtaking it from behind.

Just before 9:02 a.m., PSA Flight 182 struck the Cessna. The plane crash completely broke apart the smaller plane and severely damaged the commercial jet's right wing, crippling the 727. Leaking fuel burst into flame after a fuel tank in the wing ruptured and the plane rolled to the right, plummeting nose-first into a residential San Diego neighborhood.

All 135 passengers and crew members on the flight perished in the plane crash. On the ground, more than 20 houses were destroyed and seven residents killed.

In his documentary, "Return to Dwight & Nile: The Crash of PSA 182," David Fresina covers the tragedy and its aftermath, composing his film almost completely of interviews with witnesses, survivors and remaining family members.

Fresina, who lives in Massachusetts, is an amateur filmmaker who has maintained a passion for the story of PSA Flight 182 since watching news coverage of the plane crash as an 11-year-old on the east coast. His film premiered on Wednesday to a sold-out theater.

The McClellan Law Firm has recovered millions of dollars for the injured in San Diego and throughout Southern California, including airplane, helicopter, and private plane accidents.