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David Burke

David A. Burke

David A. Burke (May 18th, 1952 – December 7th, 1987) was a former USAir employee responsible for the murder-suicide crash of Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 1771 in 1987 which resulted in the deaths of all on board.

Background

Burke, originally born in Jamaica to British parents, worked for USAir as a ticket agent. He had seven children, but never married. In 1987, USAir purchased Pacific Southwest Airlines. On November 19th, Burke was discovered to have stolen $69 in in-flight cocktail receipts from the airline. For this and other petty crimes, Burke was fired from his position at USAir.

PSA Flight 1771

On the afternoon of December 7, Burke had a meeting with his manager, Ray Thomson, and begged him to be reinstated. Thomson refused and quickly left to catch Flight 1771, his daily commuter flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Desperation and anger set in for Burke, who quickly bought a ticket for himself on the airliner. Burke was also in possession of a .44 Magnum revolver which he had borrowed from co-worker Joseph Drabik. Using his USAir credentials, which he had not yet turned back over to the company, Burke was able to bypass security checkpoints and smuggle the loaded gun on board.

Shortly after takeoff, it is believed that Burke handed an airsickness bag to Thomson before entering the lavatory. Thomson would have discovered a message written on the bag which read:

"Hi Ray. I think it's sort of ironical that we end up like this. I asked for some leniency for my family. Remember? Well, I got none and you'll get none."

Burke then returned from the lavatory carrying the gun and shot Thomson dead in his seat. At this point, terrified flight attendant Deborah Neil burst into the cockpit and yelled "We have a problem!" Captain Gregg Lindamood turned to her and asked "What kind of problem?" just as Burke came up behind her and coldly shot the stewardess dead. "I'm the problem," Burke replied and fired two more shots into the cockpit, killing Captain Lindamood and first officer James Nunn.

The plane, with nobody at the controls, quickly entered a nose dive. PSA's Chief Pilot in LA, Douglas Arthur, also a passenger, is thought to have attempted to regain control of the cockpit at this point, but was also shot and killed by Burke. In total, it is known that Burke fired six shots inside of the airplane.

At around 4:16 PM PSA Flight 1771 crashed into the side of one of the Saint Lucia Mountains, killing everyone on board, including Burke. By the end of the day, 43 people had lost their lives.

Aftermath

Following in the disaster, it became law for all employees to immediately turn in all of their credentials upon termination from an airline position. New laws were also passed which ensured that airline employees receive the same amount of security scrutiny as passengers.

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