I Nearly Lost My Life At The USAF Ramstein Air Show Disaster

I nearly lost my life at the Ramstein air show disaster near Kaiserslautern, West Germany in 1988.

I was serving in the U.S. Air Force at the time. The show attracted about 100,000 people each year. It was a cultural high point in those parts back in the day. My first wife and I attended with a group of about nine friends.

It was a very exciting day with a ton of great aerial performances.


Some jets from the Italian Air Force were doing one of the last events of the day. What they called a “pierced heart” formation.

Unfortunately, the Italian planes collided in mid-air.

I remember seeing a massive fireball about 200 yards in front of me and 100 feet off the ground. I thought this was part of the show.

After that, everything started happening in slow motion. Dead silence, it seemed, as the plane that collided started pinwheeling right toward my group.

I turned and ran.

The plane hit the ground, generating a huge ball of fire 800 feet high. The concussion picked me up and hurled me forward something like forty feet.

I remember knowing I was going to die. I just hoped it wouldn’t hurt.

But then the weirdest thing happened.

I tripped on the ground. Scraped all of the skin off my chest. I think that’s what saved me. That plus the fact that ran.

Once I finally picked myself up, there was black smoke everywhere. Burning jet fuel. People were running all over the place and they were on fire.

My wife and I ended up bumping into each other. She used to have shoulder-length hair but that had burned off. She had second and third degree burns on her back from the heat flash. We clung to each other and turned to see what had happened.

Bodies lay everywhere, scattered like knocked over dolls.

Everyone we could see moving back toward the impact zone lay dead.

I think it’s safe to say we were in shock.

Looking back on it now, this experience became the pinnacle of my current spirituality.

It was the first time in my life that death came so close. And yet oddly enough, I felt comforted. I felt calm.

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