37-years-ago today, a twin-engine Beechcraft Baron slammed into Concord’s Sunvalley Mall, killing seven people (the pilot, two passengers and four people on the ground).
The crash also seriously injured and burned close to 100 Christmas shoppers in the crowded mall.
Killed in the plane was the pilot, James Graham, 67, of Oakland, and his passengers, 23-year-old Brian Oliver and 48-year-old John Lewis.
In the mall, those who died were 22-year-old Pamela Stanford, 49-year-old Chandrika Shah, 45-year-old Patricia Larson and 14-month-old Alexander Luong, of Concord.
Yup. My girlfriend and I were there upstairs near the Sears portal.
The ensuing fireball is emblazoned in my mind…. that, and the hundreds of people running towards us.
My friend and I were Christmas shopping near Macy’s, when my friend suggested we go across the street to K-Mart. We left the mall five minutes before the crash.
I have a terrific Guardian Angel, she or he has saved me from many catastrophes in my life.
My friend was there, he said that everyone ran out of their shoes. He was right in front of Macy’s and ran for his life too. I heard it fly over my home and the engine was sputtering. Afterwards I tried to contact the authorities but no one was interested. I believe they wanted to blame the pilot instead of mechanical issues.
It had two engines. One would be enough.
The pilot was very experienced. It was very foggy but he should have been making an instrument approach. I can’t find out if that is what he was doing. I have to look up and see if Buchanan was instrument rated. If it wasn’t the pilot shouldn’t have tried landing there. He had fifty years experience. Old ww2 navy pilot.
Yes at home.My next door neighbor use to fly with him.
What was the plane crash the week before where six people died, it was mentioned in the first video. I went out of state a couple of weeks before the Sunvalley crash and dont remember the previous plane crash.
The only other local crash that year was a plane stolen from Buchannan on 3 Dec 1985. They assume the pilot was killed but they never found a body.
That first crash was off concord ave and via de mercados
Behind the Pontiac dealership paint shop
That first crash was off concord ave and via de mercados
Behind the Pontiac dealership paint shop
I had just driven out of the Contra Costa Boulevard parking lot after Christmas shopping at Macy’s. According to the timeline, I must have just been turning onto Contra Costa Boulevard heading home to Walnut Creek. When I got home, my mother called and told me what had happened. It was the closest I had ever come to a disaster and I imagined the tragedy of the scene I had walked past as I left. With all those children lined up to talk to Santa, it must have been a horrific and terrifying scene for everyone.
I was there with my boyfriend at that time, Ted , we were shopping for one another so neither one of us knew where the other was. Turned out one was at Longs drugs, where Nordstroms is now and one was at Mervyns , where Safeway is now. So safe but so scared
I was in Macy’s biotin floor near the rear doors. I thought it was an earthquake with the sounds and things falling from the ceiling. Then I realized my feet didn’t feel any shaking. I went out the back doors a few feet away and saw some men running for the fire hoses. Upstairs was dark. I saw people running down the escalator looking back. It was very quiet. I did not hear anything. I tried to continue shopping but no one was around. I went down towards Sears and saw people loading things into full carts and running out the doors. I was parked on the upper deck of the parking lot. When I got to my car I looked back and then saw the plane on the roof. Then all the emergency vehicles were arriving and there was no exiting from the parking lot for a couple of hours. I have since learned that in emergencies my mind zones out. I blocked out the fire, the screams and all forms of panic. It was weird when I read all about in the paper the next few days and I had been there almost at ground zero and barely noticed anything. Weird. Except the next day my body was so stiff I could barely move. I’ll never forget.
I have looked many times for that plaque that memorialize the incident. I cannot find it anywhere. Does anybody have an exact location on it at the mall?
That plaque is pretty small. About 8″ by 10″ inches..and located on the rock veneer of the wall entering the mall at the center entry from the upper level of the parking garage, on east side. (Freeway side,)
I was stationed in Europe when this happened and I remember reading about it in Stars and Stripes.
I parked my bug outside of Macy’s facing Contra Costa Boulevard. After getting out of the car I looked up and observed how foggy the night sky was and could hear a plane flying above and throttling down. My girlfriend and best friend were with me and we entered Macy’s through one of the many swinging doors that face Contra Costa Boulevard.
Macy’s had women’s lingerie displayed when you first entered the store. I began browsing the lingerie with my girlfriend joking how this would be the first thing a guy would see when entering the store when all of a sudden everything went slow motion. The lingerie I was looking at came away from the back of the wall and the garments separated from each other. As I turned my head to the left I heard rustling noises and observed paper flowing down the center of the isles as all the swinging double front doors for Macy’s flung fully open. I turned to my friends and inquired what the heck is going on?
Then groups of people began running down the isles past us screaming towards the exit doors. My friends and I looked at each other and decided we should also get out of here. Once outside, people in the parking lot informed us a there was a massive flame at the center of the mall.
After arriving home, I watched the late news and was informed that a plane crashed on the roof of Sun Valley Mall spilling ignited fuel all over the center of the mall.
I was there. I told my mom I was sick. We were in Macy’s on that day. My mother got so frustrated with me that she took us to the car. We missed that plane crash. My friend Danielle, whom I had seen that day at the mall was not so lucky. She was flown to a children’s hospital in Oakland and had burns all over her body. She finally came to school, and she was scarred for life. I don’t know why I said I was sick, because I was not, but maybe that was a sign from God for us to leave. it was a tragedy.
We were there watching a loud movie, so we didn’t hear the crash.
Decided to leave the car and walk home because it would have taken too long to get out of the parking lot.
Found out what happened from the neighbours when we got to our street.
I heard he was a very good pilot – it was just one of those things. So sad.
Yep. Myself and my sisters were shopping, it was actually on Christmas Eve not the 23rd. We planned to meet at the Santa at 8:30. We were all separated and ran different directions, when the plane hit, little sister was trampled on the escalator and sent to the hospital, older sister had jet fuel splashed in her back legs. My parents didn’t know where we were for hours and hours. Was so scary. I was 12 years old.
I was working at Toys R Us down the street. My best friend (who also worked at Toys R Us) sister came in the front door in a panic. She had been there when it happened and got separated from her husband.
At the time of the incident, I was at home with my dad, watching the NFL game on tv. My mom & older sister were there at the mall, though. I recall them coming home, my sister exclaiming “Didn’t you hear about the plane crash at Sun Valley mall that just happened?!” We had not yet, no news interrupting the football game coverage. My sister told me that they were on the JCPenney side of the mall, and they saw people running frantically around. I’m sure they heard a kaboom noise, but I’m not certain. My mom wanted to go see what was going on towards the center, but my sister wanted them to just get the heck out of there. In the days that followed, we saw the news about it, and I went driving past the scene to see it with my own eyes. Indeed, there was the crashed plane, with the tail hanging over the side of the top of the building, around the vicinity of where the back of Bath & Body Works or Charlotte Russe is now. Never saw that commemorative plaque before—anyone?
I remember. How tragic. I also remember in 1977 a Cessna flew out of Buchanan Airport with just a pilot, Helmut Sacher of Concord. The pilot went into a flip over some townhouses on Clayton Rd. and was unable to pull out. Helmut flew into a carport and was killed instantly. Helmut was the only casualty. May they all rest in peace.
I wasn’t there but I went to the mall with my dad on the 26th to adopt a cat from the pet store that was downstairs. The beautiful little kitten that we brought home that day was in the front window display area all alone, so we always wondered if she was also in that window area when the plane crashed and what she must have seen. I remember the crash area was already all walled off and the whole mall smelled like smoke. Such a terrible tragedy.
My husband and I were there in Capwells at the time. What we saw were the faces of people fleeing the fire. To this day I remember the pure terror on their faces as they ran through the store. I am covered with goose bumps as I write this. We asked the teller if she knew what it was about and she oh, nothing, they are just playing. I said no, that is FEAR. We got out as fast as possible before the roads were shut down with emergency vehicles and people getting away. It was then that we learned that a small plane had crashed and people injured and killed in a fireball. Sad and terrifying.
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