Here's a little history of Air Florida's Flight 90 from information I have gathered over the years. Captain Larry Wheaton joined Air Florida when his company, "Air Sunshine" was purchased by Air Florida in 1979. He spent most of his time flying DC-3's between Tampa/Miami and the Key West and Marathon and had very little experience flying in winter weather. Air Florida was in the midst of rapid growth and pilots were upgrading very quickly. In fact, Air Florida once flew a DC-10 across the North Atlantic and every single crew member (including the Captain) was under 30 years of age.
The First Officer, Roger Petit, was an ex-military pilot who had experience flying in Alaska. Therefore, I am sure he had some knowledge of winter weather operations. He apparently knew something was wrong because the 737 was using up a lot of runway and was not accelerating like it normally should. Some felt that his military training (Captain is always right) kept him from firmly speaking up. Also on board Flight 90 was a jumpseating Air Florida pilot. He opted to sit in an empty seat in the cabin. Many wonder if the whole scenario would have played out differently had he sat in the cockpit jumpseat.
Back in the cabin, Donna Adams, Marilyn Nichols, and Kelly Duncan were taking care of the 74 passengers. A few passengers expressed concern about the weather, but most were just eager to get moving. The Senior Flight Attendant, Donna Adams, (A true beauty) was planning on leaving the airlines soon. Marilyn Nichols had just found out on Christmas Eve the she was pregnant. She planned on taking a leave of absence and come back after the baby was born. Kelly Duncan was the most junior of the five crew members. Like Captain Wheaton, she joined Air Florida after her company, Air Sunshine, was acquired. As per Air Florida policy, Kelly Duncan and Marilyn Nichols were to sit in the aft jumpseat and Donna Adams was to sit by herself in the forward jumpseat.
Now here's the tragedy within the tragedy. Donna Adams and Marilyn Nichols were best friends and since it would be their last trip together, they decided to sit together in the forward jumpseat. Kelly Duncan sat by herself in aft jumpseat.
As most of you know, when the 737 stalled, its tail section clipped the 14th Street Bridge. The cockpit and forward cabin tilted over and nose-dived into the river. The passengers and crew seated in the front did not have a chance. The tail section separated from the rest of the aircraft. As it hit the water, it did a 180 degree turn and faced the 14th Street Bridge. With the river current moving away from the now open tail section, Kelly Duncan and one passenger were able to escape before it completely flooded. Another passenger was still strapped in his seat and was tangled in cables. Somehow he managed to keep his head above the water. Three other passengers escaped from the last row of the main fuselage that was now submerged in the 26 foot-deep Potomac. All suffered serious bone fractures and hyperthomia.
When the Park Police helicopter arrived, its crew was able to rescue all the survivors except the man who was tangled in his seat. He became a hero, when he gave up his turn, four times, so that the others could get out safely. The 14th Street Bridge is now named after him.
After the crash, Air Florida suffered from a loss of ticket sales. The accident, along with the expenses of operating five Boeing 727-200's are considered the main reasons the company went bankrupt in 1984.
Just to add a little to the story, Kelly Duncan went back to work with Air Florida about six months after the crash and continued to fly until the company's last day of operation. She now works as a school teacher. Two other survivors passed away about two years ago. Ironically, they died within a month of each other.