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Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Duane Crawford's notes on Tom Duley, former Continental Airlines gate agent

This echoes a previous post on this blog which I shared with you all from Tim Duley. If you can recollect it was his father who was the gate agent at Chicago O'Hare Airport the night Flight 11 departed. He was the last person to see any of the passengers or crew alive on the ground (with the exception of those who saw Takehiko Nakano who of course died shortly after being pulled from the wreckage). This is another rendition of Tom Duley's account of that evening (Tom was Tim's father, Tim contacted me). It is taken from PC Happenings which is "Putnam County Happening" where Mr Duane Crawford resides and writes columns for the Unionville Republican Newspaper there in Missouri. It is as follows:

"In my last PC Happenings, I mentioned Tim Duley as being a pilot for Jet Blue Airways and coming to the Remembrance Service from California to represent his late father.  About a year ago he emailed this account of his father, Tom Duley, who was an employee for Continental Airlines for 23 years.  He wrote the following on June 13, 2011 to Tom Bolster, who was also on gate duty that night.  “Tom Duley worked the ticket counter and gates (mostly gates).  He mentioned Continental Flight 11 to me numerous times.  Here are the details.  A man (Thomas Doty) bought an insurance policy for a huge amount from one of the insurance counters in the terminal at O’Hara Airport in Chicago.
“In those days, there was no airport security.  It was like a bus terminal.  Passengers just walked to and through the gates and boarded their flights.  He told me that Flight 11’s tragedy was the reason for the increased airport security.
“He related that the insurance counters then would call the gate to tell him or other gate employees the name of the passenger buying a large insurance policy. He said that with that information they would not have allowed the passenger to board.  For some reason, the insurance counter did not call the gate that night.  The passengers (Thomas Doty and Geneva Fraley) arrived at the gate after they had already closed the flight and pulled the air-stairs (no jet-bridges in those days) away from the plane.
“But in those days, customer service was important, and though the aircraft doors were already closed, my father was required to move the air-stairs back to Flight 11 to let Doty and his friend aboard.
“Dad mentioned Captain Fred Gray many times, and he told me that he was a great pilot.  Also, he stated that after Doty was aboard the forward flight attendant gave him a cup of coffee and said, ‘Have a good night Tom!’  The door was then closed.  He was the last person to speak personally to a member of the crew.
“Dad said that the movie “Airport” was based on Flight 11; however, the real Flight 11 was a terrible tragedy.  This flight and Dad’s role weighed heavily on him for the rest of his life. 
“My father married my mother, a Continental flight attendant and former registered nurse (RN).  In those days flight attendants were forced to quit if they married or became pregnant.  She went back to nursing.
“Dad continued his career with continental and eventually became a ticket counter supervisor in Denver, Colorado.  He passed away in 2003.
“I wish my father was still alive to see the great work Unionville citizens have done to remember the crew and passengers of Flight 11.”
Ralph Boester also worked the gate at O’Hare Airport on May 22, 1962.  An employee with Hewlett-Packard, he has verified what Tom Duley had said.  He also added other interesting information, which I’ll describe at another time." 

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