Crash Survivors Honor Everglades Hero

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After 35 years, Eastern Airlines Flight 401 survivors meet, thank and honor the man who saved many of their lives.

On Monday, December 3, 2007 survivors of Eastern Airlines Flight 401, gathered at the Metro-Dade Firefighters Memorial Building, in Doral (Miami), Florida, to remember the 101 passengers and crew, who lost their lives in the fateful crash of a Lockheed L-1011, jumbo-jet in the Florida Everglades, December 29, 1972, while en route from New York to Miami and pay tribute to Robert "Bud" Marquis. Robert Marquis, affectionately known as "Bullfrog Bud," was in the Everglades that night gigging frogs in his airboat and was the first to arrive on the scene of the crash.

Bud Marquis worked tirelessly throughout the night to save many of their lives, even after official help and trained rescue personnel had arrived. Mr. Marquis used his airboat to transport rescue personnel and victims to and from the crash site, located in a remote are of the Everglades, 18.5 miles west of the Miami-International Airport, throughout the night and into the next day.

In a dignified and emotional ceremony, opened by the presentation of the flags by the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department Honor Guard, the Pledge of Allegiance, an invocation given by Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department Chaplain Chief L. Thomas and followed by a moment of silence, the survivors of Flight 401 recited poems and read letters that they had composed since the crash.

One-by-one, Flight 401 survivors stood, walked to the podium and spoke of how surviving the crash had changed their lives, eulogized their friends, family and co-workers and personally thanked Mr. Marquis. All had waited 35 years to meet, hug and shake the hand of the man who was instrumental in their survival.

Prior to the December 3rd ceremony, all had thought they had been forgotten by time. The ceremony re-united friends, families and co-workers and afforded them the opportunity to meet a man they all remembered, but never had the opportunity to thank.

Mr. Marquis, now 78, was presented with the National Air Disaster Alliance/Foundation's 2007 "Humanitarian Award", by Carmen Roberts-Thompson, Vice President of NADA/F, who had flown from New York to make the presentation.

Mr. Marquis was also presented with the "Alumitech - 'Airboat Hero Award,'" and a check for $500, by the American Airboat Search and Rescue Association. The Alumitech award will be a perpetual award, hereafter known as the "Alumitech - 'Robert Bud Marquis' Award" and be presented annually to a worthy recipient for heroic and/or humanitarian achievements in the airboating community.

With an estimated 200 people in attendance, the ceremony was closed by the unveiling and presentation of Mr. Marquis with his restored airboat, the very boat he used the night of December 29, 1972. A group of airboat enthusiasts, in cooperation with DiamondBack Airboats, Cocoa, Florida, Sensenich Propellers, Plant City, Florida and Mike Thurman Accurate Airboat Engines, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, restored Mr. Marquis' boat to "like-new" condition, as it was in 1972.

Special thanks to the following groups and organizations for making the ceremony possible:

Metro-Dade Firefighters' IAFF Union Local 1403, Doral, Florida
National Air Disaster Alliance/Foundation, Washington, D.C.
Alumitech, Inc., Orlando, Florida
Florida-3 Airboat Search and Rescue, Tampa, Florida
Gator Guides, Tampa, Florida
American Airboat Search and Rescue Association

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Michael Wade

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Gail Dunham