First responder to 1987 crash of Flight 255 releases song about tragic day

Plane crashed shortly after takeoff from Detroit Metro Airport

Crash scene of Northwest Flight 255 on I-94 on Aug. 16, 1987. (AP Photo) (AP)

A first responder on the scene of the tragic 1987 crash of Northwest Flight 255 has released a song about the life-changing day.

Andy Graves, then a paramedic with Huron Valley Ambulance, arrived on the scene that day, Aug. 16, 1987. He spent hours at the site, checking on each of the people who died in the crash.

On August 16, 1987, Northwest Flight 255 crashed shortly after taking off from Detroit Metropolitan Airport, killing 156 people.

The flight was headed to California when it left the gate in Detroit. The DC-9 Super 82 pilots forgot to conduct their pre-flight checks, as a result, the warning system never turned on. This lead to the plane’s wing flaps failing to extend prior to takeoff. As the plane rushed down the runway, it lifted only 40 feet off the ground.

The plane hit lampposts and a rental-car office. It then crashed onto Middlebelt Road and struck vehicles, killing two people on the ground.

The plane began to break apart, bursting into flames as it hit a railroad and an overpass on I-94. There was only one survivor from the crash, 4-year-old Cecelia Cichan.

Graves, now a part of a Michigan-based Contemporary Christian rock and pop band with singer and songwriter Mindi Odom, released a song titled, “August Rain."

“It is an emotionally powerful song, telling a story of a tragic and poignant event. It was also an event where something miraculous happened. It is a story that transcends both our band and our song.”

Graves says the majority of proceeds are being donated to the Salvation Army’s Eastern Michigan division.

“That branch sends the canteen truck and staff each year to provide refreshments at the annual Flight 255 Memorial. We would like anyone touched by the tragedy or our song to consider doing the same," Graves said.

“The inspiration for the song came from the Flight 255 Memorial which was placed at the site in 1994. There is a beautiful poem on the back, called ‘Final Flight’ by Duane Adams. The poem made me think of it as music lyrics, and I thought that someday I could write a song about that night.” Graves told Local 4.

“A 2002 or 2003 attempt to write the song only from a first responder’s perspective just never came together. But, 25 years later, it happened! After attending the August 2019 Flight 255 memorial service and having just teamed up with Mindi as musical teammates, we approached the song from the universal themes of loss, grief, healing, hope, and faith. It came together in just a few days and we started recording it at our studio, Real II Reel Productions in Fenton (with our producer, Marshall Block) on September 17, 2019.”

“The story behind the song is so much bigger than us, our band, or even our song itself. There are literally thousands and thousands of people out there that were touched in some way by the event. Those people, in particular the families of those that were lost, were always at the forefront of our thoughts all through writing and recording. We, and our super-talented friends that joined us on the recording, strived to make everything just absolutely perfect for all of the people touched by the tragedy.”

Listen to the song from Pivotal Awakening below:

About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital special projects manager for WDIV / He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013.