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Just after 2:00pm on Saturday, May 11 1996, Valujet flight 592 lifted off Miami International's runway 27 left bound for Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport, the company's hub. On the DC-9's flight deck that afternoon was Captain Candalyn Kubeck and First Officer Richard Hazen.

Impact Crater of 592

Carrying three other crew members and 105 passengers, flight 592, callsign Critter, climbed northwest bound over the Florida Everglades. About six minutes after departure, the crew noticed some sort of electrical anomaly and the CVR recorded Captain Kubeck saying "we're losing everything", indicating a possible loss of electrical power on the flight deck. Just after this, shouts of "fire" were heard on the CVR. First Officer Hazen immediately told Miami departure that 592 needed to return to Miami. At this time, 592, was about 100 miles out of Miami and climbing to 16,000ft. Miami gave 592 vectors back to the southeast and a descent to 5,000ft. The senior flight attendant came forward to the flight deck to tell the crew that there was fire in the cabin and that oxygen needed to be provided. Hazen continued to query Miami for assistance until the aircraft plunged into the Everglades 12 miles north of the airport, about nine minutes after takeoff.

Rescue crews dispatched to the area had to use airboats to reach the crash site. Rescuers were able to locate very little of the aircraft and no human remains in the large crater made by the impact. Eyewitnesses reported seeing the aircraft in a very unusual attitude shortly before impact. Rescuers were forced to bring in special equipment to protect them from jet fuel while searching the crater. Though the search continued for nearly a month, no survivors were ever found and to date, only 75% of the aircraft and the remains of only 37 passengers have been located. Fortunately, the CVR and FDR were found.

Due to the lack of physical evidence recovered from the crash site, investigators initially had to rely on the CVR for clues to the reason behind the crash. It was clear that there was some sort of fire onboard the aircraft during the flight, though it was impossible to determine the extent. It was obvious that the flight crew was not able to maintain control of the aircraft, which could have been the result of either blindness caused by smoke in the cockpit or fire disabling the aircraft. In the course of the recovery efforts, crews were able to locate several oxygen canisters which were carried on board in the forward cargo hold. These canisters were being transported to Valujet's Atlanta base and were labelled as empty. Investigators were able to determine that the canisters were in fact not empty and the safety rings were not in place. Tests have shown that these canisters can ignite intense fires very rapidly if damaged. Recovery of the forward cargo section of the aircraft confirmed that an intense fire had broken out in that section and burned up into the cabin. Investigators could not confirm whether the fire was started on the ground or in the air because there were no fire detectors installed in the cargo area. It is now thought that the fire indeed burned through the control linkages, rendering the aircraft uncontrollable from the flight deck.