A former Hahnville teacher is continuing his streak of highlighting Louisiana’s greatest disasters with a new documentary on the crash of Pan American Flight 759, which killed 153 people in Kenner.
The documentary, from Royd Anderson, comes during the 30th anniversary of the crash. Pan Am Flight 759 took off under heavy thunderstorms on July 9, 1982. A microburst, which is a very intense downdraft that descends to the ground and results in strong wind divergences, pushed the plane into the Roosevelt Subdivision.
The crash destroyed four blocks of the neighborhood. Everyone on board the plane died, while eight people on the ground were killed.
It is still the worst plane crash in Louisiana history.
“I was 9 years old when the crash first occurred. I still remember that afternoon. My dad was installing the ceiling fan in our living room in Gentilly,” Anderson said. “The plane crash was an event you don’t forget from your childhood, like when Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan were shot.”
Last summer, Anderson compiled a hefty number of articles from the web and read them while vacationing. He was so fascinated by the event, that when he returned home he extended his research and gathered more articles on microfilm from Loyola’s library.
“I spent many days there,” he said.
Anderson specializes in documentary films pertaining to tragic Louisiana events he says are overlooked by historians. In 2006, Anderson wrote and directed the documentary “The Luling Ferry Disaster.” The film recounts the story of the worst ferry disaster in U.S. history when 77 people were killed in the MV George Prince ferry crash. The documentary was released on the 30th anniversary of the tragedy and the success of the film generated a movement, initiated by Anderson, to build a monument in St. Charles Parish for the victims and survivors.
In 2007, Anderson wrote and directed the documentary “The Continental Grain Elevator Explosion.” The film documents the deadliest grain dust explosion of the modern era, occurring on December 22, 1977 at the Continental Grain plant in Westwego. Thirty-six people died in the accident.
“These tragedies are part of the history of Louisiana and documenting them first-hand as a video journalist assures me that this sad part of our state’s history will not be forgotten,” Anderson said. “I feel privileged talking to the families and learning about their loved ones who were lost.”
Anderson feels the need to highlight these tragedies because he says that the material is not found in textbooks and teachers are too worried about covering material for standardized testing.
“Significant local history is being ignored in the classroom,” he said. “Parents aren’t doing a good job of passing on local history to their kids and it’s a shame. The iPhone has become the silencer.
“There seems to be no more family communication. No more storytelling. No appreciation for what’s going on around them.”
Anderson will screen an un-cut version of his film, “Pan Am Flight 759,” at the East Regional Library in Destrehan at 7:30 p.m. on July 10. Anderson is showing the film in St. Charles because of the effect the event had on the parish.
Members of the St. Charles Fire Department were first responders to the tragedy. The crash also caused the expansion of the east-west runway into St. Charles Parish because Kenner did not want air traffic over their rooftops.
“The air traffic is now over marshlands in St. Charles Parish,” Anderson said. “The documentary includes an illuminating interview with Aaron Broussard, who was the mayor of Kenner at the time, and he explains the revenue resolution reached with St. Charles Parish.”
The screening is free and open to the public. For more information on the plane crash, visit www.facebook.com/panamflight759.