I flew to St. Maarten in 2001 to interview three passengers who survived ALM Flight 980. All three had agreed to be interviewed before I made the trip. When I got there, however, things had changed. One passenger would only agree to an interview if I paid him. I guess he thought I was some famous author with lots of money. Little did he know. So, I declined to meet with him and called the second person on my list. She also had a change of heart. She did not want to meet with me. Instead, she suggested that I submit my questions to her lawyer and that she would respond at a later date. By this time I was starting to regret my decision to fly to St. Martin. But I had one more person on my list, and fortunately for me, she was more than happy to sit down with me. Her name was Jeannie
Jeannie was 88 years old when I met her. She had lived near water her entire life. Jeannie had two sons who worked for the airlines. She was returning from New York on May 2, 1970, after visiting her mother who was ill. After interviewing her and later comparing my notes with other survivors, I became convinced that Jeannie was the last person out of the plane before it sank.
Jeannie was thrown forward a dozen or so rows after impact, her head hitting the reading lights and air vents above other passengers. She was temporarily knocked unconscious. When she came to, the plane was already half full of water. By the time she made it to the emergency exit, she had to submerge herself and swim out. She never did inflate her life vest. She ended up on top of the escape chute and was one of the first people rescued.
in the audio clip below, Jeannie describes the chaotic scene in the plane minutes after passengers were told to don their life vests. She talks about the two small children who were on board. I know from talking with Wilfred Spencer the Purser, that the parents tried to calm the children by making donning the life vests into a game. She also mentions the two gentlemen who made the poor decision to take photos rather than don their life vests.
Jeannie Larmony lived to be 100.