On May 11, 1996, ValuJet Flight 592 from Miami to Atlanta crashed into the Everglades after a fire onboard the McDonnell Douglas DC-9. Investigators determined that oxygen-generating canisters were improperly secured, labeled and packaged in the cargo hold of the plane. The DC-9 left the Miami International Airport one hour late and was supposed to touch down in Atlanta about 2hours later. After about 20 minutes after takeoff, the plane came crashing down into the swamplands of the Everglades. All 110 passengers and flight crew died in the crash.
ValuJet was grounded one month later and merged with Airways Corporation, parent of AirTran Airways in 1997. The newly merged airline opted to choose AirTran as the name rather than ValuJet. In 2011 Southwest bought AirTran.
In 1999, on the third anniversary of the tragic accident, a memorial to the victims was dedicated near the crash site in the Everglades, about 12 miles to the east of Miami’s Krome Ave. The 110 concrete pillars, one for each person, are standing on a triangle shaped concrete platform. The memorial points towards the crash site of the plane, about 8 miles to the north. At the tip of the memorial is a listing of names of those lost.
The memorial grounds are located along the Tamiami Trail and just off Highway 41 connecting Miami with Naples. It’s approximately a 45-minute drive from the Miami International Airport. You can see the memorial from the street but there is no signage about it. If you travel west on 41 you will see the pillars to your right and shortly after that is a crossing over the canal to get to it. There is a huge parking lot there and I would recommend you to use that, rather than driving up to the memorial.
Today, over 2 decades after the crash it looks like the memorial almost got forgotten. When I visited there were a few cars parked in the dirt lot but they were just there for fishing or to launch a boat. The only person who visited the memorial was a cop when he drove past the memorial and got out. There should be a sign on the highway for this memorial. Many people probably see the pillars when the drive by but don’t know what they mean as there is no real signage. The sign for the boat ramp is visible from the highway and your indicator to turn here. I came here to pay my respects to the victims of this tragic point in history. I didn’t know anybody aboard but I am interested in travel and especially flying. That’s what really led me here to visit this place.
When you travel along Highway 41 please stop for a minute and pay your respect to the people who perished. “They” made air-travel safer as FAA strengthen regulation and rules after that accident. Since the ValuJet crash, there have been no accidents involving fires in the cargo holds of passenger airlines. There have been some fires, however, involving all-cargo planes, said NTSB spokesman Paul Schlamm. [Source]