Spotlight on Golden Parachute

Hello, CSI: Miami Maniacs! As mentioned before, today I will start describing the episodes starting from the beginning with Golden Parachute. Although this blog is usually entertaining, this time I am going to introduce quite a serious matter, which is a real disaster which was its inspiration.

Golden Parachute basic information

It is the first episode of the first season of CSI: Miami, first aired on September 23, 2002, and the first of only 10 to include Kim Delaney as the portrayer of Megan Donner. Parts of the episode are slightly based on the plane crash of ValuJet Flight 592, which occurred 6 years before CSI was aired. I will describe it in a nutshell below.

Summary

Two fishermen in Everglades hear a plane approaching too loudly. It flies by, smoking, and crashes into the water. Horatio and Eric then arrive to look for survivors and they find one after a brief procedure discussion with NTSB. Delko unsuccessfully tries to save him. Calleigh gives Horatio information about the flight while Eric continues searching for the body parts and money. Megan Donner arrives and meets with Tim Speedle who welcomes her back but she wants to get to work immediately. She discusses the case with Horatio who stands his ground and apologizes for having her job. Alexx finds what appears to be a bullet hole in one of the victims while putting the remains of the bodies together. She tells Horatio who asks Calleigh to find the bullet in the wreckage. A detective interviews one of the anglers having Speedle listen to them. Speedle tells Megan about his poaching rifle. Eric dives for evidence while Speedle documents it. Horatio shows Megan the shoddy equipment from the plane. As Eric and Speedle bicker, Horatio finds an undamaged seat belt and an empty briefcase. Eric yells out about having found a survivor. While the paramedics are taking him, Horatio notices the man did not wear his seat belt.
Megan tells Horatio about a dead woman, 5 miles away from the crime scene. Alexx examines her body and wonders how come that she got so far from the wreck. She determines that the deceased also did not wear her seatbelt and that she was wearing very expensive. Horatio notices some marks on her hand and talks to her mother. Searching for the bullet, Calleigh finds suspicious damage to the plane’s door. Speedle fills Horatio in on what the passengers of the plane were doing. Calleigh tells them about the door having opened during the flight, causing that the dead woman fell so far away. The plane was bringing a group of company executives to Washington, D.C. to meet the SEC. Horatio interrogates the aviation technician and discovers the door didn’t open by itself. Megan and Horatio question the survivor suggesting the dead woman committed suicide.
While Eric and Speedle argue about Megan; Eric says that Megan walked right back in after being gone so long, but Speedle tells him her husband died. Horatio and Megan recreate a scene in the plane. They determine that the dead woman had been thrown out of it. Eric and Tim find out the angler had stolen the black box and snab it from his alligator pond. On the black box, they hear the crash, but no gunshot. They also hear the dead woman screaming for help. Speedle looks into her life, Calleigh looks for the bullet, and Eric tries to discover how the plane crashed. Speedle concludes that the victim didn’t commit suicide, Calleigh discovers a rivet had hit the pilot, and Eric finds a very expensive woman’s shoe in the engine. They recreate the scene again but cannot prove the survivor killed the woman. Horatio remembers the marks on her hand linking them to a fire extinguisher the survivor used to break the woman’s grip on the door. He killed the woman because she was a whistleblower to the fraud committed by the company. They find him hanged at his house. Horatio gives the victim’s mother a damaging letter about the people from the crash.

Review

I have always loved the stories about plane crashes, rescue actions etc. so I have to mention this episode as one of my favorites. Its worthy aspects are e.g. thrilling action while the crime committed is shown, the scientific value of the scenes with medical or ballistic examinations as well as human bravery and determination shown by Eric doing his best to solve the case and rescue the survivors. He is a good example of a courageous officer committed to his service to the society.

The ValuJet plane crash

Background

It was a regularly scheduled flight from Miami International Airport to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The Accident

On May 11, 1996, the ValuJet Airlines McDonnell-Douglas DC-9 operating the route crashed into the Everglades about 11 minutes after taking off from Miami as a result of a fire in the cargo compartment caused by improperly stored cargo. All 110 people on board perished. To date, the accident remains the deadliest in the history of Florida.
In the cockpit, there were two experienced pilots: Captain Candalyn Kubeck (35) and First Officer Richard Hazen (52) as well as 3 flight attendants. Captain Kubeck had accumulated more than 8,900 hours throughout her career and First Officer Hazen had more than 11,800 total flight hours throughout his career.
Two witnesses of the plane crash fishing nearby testified according to the NTSB report:

…that they saw a low-flying airplane in a steep right bank. According to these witnesses, as the right bank angle increased, the nose of the airplane dropped and continued downward. The airplane struck the ground in a nearly vertical attitude.

They reported seeing no external damage to the DC-9 or any sign of fire or smoke other than the engine exhaust. A group of sightseers in a small private plane also witnessed the crash and provided a nearly identical account, stating that Flight 592 seemed to “disappear” after hitting the swamp and they could see nothing but scattered small debris and part of an engine near the crash site.

Victims

Notable passengers killed on the flight included among many others Rodney Culver and his wife, Walter Hyatt, Del-Marie Walker and Robert Woodus. The oldest and the youngest victim were Conway Hamilton (age 84) and Daniel Darbor (age 4). Recovery of the corpses took several weeks.

Investigation and culpability

At the end of a fifteen-month investigation, the NTSB determined that the fire that downed Flight 592 began in a cargo compartment below the passenger cabin. However, the NTSB determined that just before takeoff, over 100 expired chemical oxygen generators were placed in the cargo compartment in five boxes marked COMAT (company material) by ValuJet’s maintenance contractor, SabreTech, in contravention of FAA regulations forbidding the transport of hazardous materials in aircraft cargo holds. In February 1998, the FAA issued revised standards requiring all Class D cargo holds to be converted by early 2001 to Class C or E; these types of holds have additional fire detection and suppression equipment. The NTSB report placed responsibility for the accident on SabreTech for improperly packaging and storing hazardous materials, ValuJet, for not supervising them and FAA for not mandating smoke detection and fire suppression systems in the cargo hold.

Legacy

On the third anniversary of the accident, in 1999, a memorial was dedicated to the victims in the Everglades. The memorial, consisting of 110 concrete pillars, is located just north of Tamiami Trail.

Wrap up

What I wanna focus on in the summary is the real incident which inspired the episode Golden Parachute. The extent to which this incident destroyed lives of the local community members left me speechless and in tears. Hats off and the highest regards to all the people who worked on this case as well as all the other services facing such tragedies on a daily basis. Is there anything you would like to say regarding the topic? Let’s keep it calm and show our respect to those deceased. May they all rest in heavenly peace.

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