Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Unsung & Gone Too Soon: Melanie Thornton (5/13/1967-11/24/2001)

Video: La Bouche-"Sweet Dreams" European Version

Video: La Bouche-"Be My Lover"

Video: Melanie Thornton-"Wonderful Dream" Live In Leipzig 24.11.2001
 Note: This is her last performance which took place on the evening of November 24th 2001 ... the same night, her plane went down near Zurich ...

Tha Artivist Writes:
I stumbled upon the amazing life and tragic demise of Melanie Thornton while reading a local weekly newspaper during an art show I was participating in during the fall of 2007...It amazes me that I was not aware of this exceptional musician earlier...I can still recall where I was and what I was doing when I first heard about the death of Aaliyah (who eerily died just several months before in a fiery plane crash)...The fact that this beautiful sister died without much fanfare in her native country speaks to the ignorance of not just the country but Black folks in particular when it comes to acknowledging our greats...Why didn't BET (Black Entertainment Television) pay tribute to this top charting trail blazing pioneer that was well deserving of her status??? She was a big hit in Europe, especially Germany and sold 10 million records worldwide...She basically followed the blueprints of so many of our great ancestors and pioneers who found a way to make it by going to Europe...Her music will live on...

The Melanie Thornton Youth Arts Foundation Inc.

Charleston Native Thornton To Be Buried On Saturday

Friday, December 7, 2001

BY PRENTISS FINDLAY Of The Charleston Post and Courier Staff

On a cold, wet night in Switzerland, Flight 3597 from Berlin approached the Zurich airport. The pilot cut his speed to 180 knots, descending from an altitude of about 4,000 feet. The aircraft banked right for its final approach. There was light snow and a slight wind. It was 32 degrees.

On board, Charleston native Melanie Thornton was preparing for her second show of the night. She had performed earlier in Leipzig, telling an interviewer after the show, "You should live life to the fullest because tomorrow's not promised."

Her career was soaring in Germany, where her "Wonderful Dream (Holidays Are Coming)" had been picked for a Coca-Cola TV ad. She had already sold more than 10 million albums worldwide as the soulful voice of the RCA Records duo LaBouche. Now, she was launching a solo career with "Ready To Fly," her debut for X-Cell/Epic.

Thornton, 34, was seated on row 12 next to a window above a wing. Her bag was next to her in an aisle seat. Capt. Hans-Ulrich Lutz was in charge of the 97-seat RJ-100 jet. He had logged thousands of hours in the cockpit for his company, Crossair.

There was no warning to passengers for what happened next. At 10:06 p.m. on Nov. 24, Zurich air traffic control cleared Flight 3597 to land. A few seconds later, the captain ordered an emergency pull-up to abort the landing and gain altitude. The cockpit voice recorder registered an acoustic signal that indicated the automatic pilot was being turned off, officials said.

"One second later, the cockpit voice recorder began to record the sound of impact. A short time later the recording ends," the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau in Bern, Switzerland, said in a report.

The plane skimmed through trees before crashing into woodlands 3.7 miles short of the runway. A beautiful, open grass field was less than 100 feet away from where the plane came to rest, said Lois Chisolm, Thornton's older sister.

Chisolm and her husband visited the crash site. She spoke with survivor Peter Hogenkamp, 33, on Nov. 29. He was seated near the rear of the plane, which broke off during the crash. Hogenkamp told Chisolm that five seconds after impact, the plane exploded where Thornton was seated.

On Saturday, Chisolm and her family grieve the loss of Thornton, who will be remembered at a funeral service at 1 p.m. at Greater Goodwill AME Church in Mount Pleasant. Burial will be in Mount Pleasant Memorial Gardens.

The family takes some solace in the success of "Ready To Fly," which entered the German record charts at No. 11 Tuesday. Her "Wonderful Dream (Holidays Are Coming)" broke into the charts at No. 9. X-Cell/Epic plans to release "Ready To Fly" in the U.S., Chisolm said.

Thornton, a Wando High School graduate, was among 24 who died in the crash, including the pilot and co-pilot. Chisolm blames the flight crew for programming the wrong numbers into the plane's autopilot, causing it to fly too low on approach. She said officials indicated to her that was the cause of the crash. The family has hired a lawyer.

A Crossair spokesman said the crash investigation continues, and the cause of the crash has not been determined.

Thornton was a U.S. and German citizen. She had an apartment near Frankfurt and owned a home in Atlanta. She arrived in Germany on Feb. 14, 1991, with $15 in her pocket.

Chisolm lived there with her U.S. Army husband. His uncle, Bob Chisolm, a singer and piano player, encouraged Thornton to give the German nightclub circuit a try. She was singing in a Macon, Ga., band, Danger Zone, pulling down $50 on a good night. Bob Chisolm told her on a bad night in Germany she would make $150.

She tried it and soon found work in studios recording demos. It was her recording of the song "Sweet Dreams" that caught the attention of producer Frank Farian, the mastermind of the infamous '80s duo Milli Vanilli. Farian took Thornton under his wing, teaming her with rapper Lane McCray in the duo LaBouche, which is French for "The Mouth."

Crossair Flight 3597

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Crossair Flight 3597
Accident summary
Date 24 November 2001 (2001-11-24)
Type Controlled flight into terrain
Site Bassersdorf, Switzerland
Passengers 28
Crew 5
Injuries 9
Fatalities 24
Survivors 9
Aircraft type Avro RJ100 Regional Jet
Operator Crossair
Tail number HB-IXM

Crossair Flight LX 3597 was an Avro RJ100 regional airliner, registration HB-IXM, on a scheduled flight from Berlin, Germany to Zurich, Switzerland that crashed during its approach to land at Zurich International Airport on November 24, 2001. Twenty-four of the thirty-three people on board were killed.[1]

The flight departed Berlin-Tegel International Airport at 9:01 PM CET, upon arrival in Zurich about an hour later it was cleared to approach runway 28 in poor visibility conditions due to low clouds. At 10:07 PM CET the plane crashed into a wooded range of hills near the small town of Bassersdorf some 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) short of the runway, where it broke apart and went up in flames. Of the 33 people onboard (28 passengers and 5 crew), 24 died (among them the cockpit crew), and nine—seven passengers and two flight attendants—survived. The lead singer of the Eurodance group La Bouche, Melanie Thornton, was one of the dead. The German pop group Passion Fruit was also aboard; two of the singers died, the third singer and manager of the band survived with injuries.[2]
The investigation concluded that the accident was a controlled flight into terrain caused by the captain deliberately descending below the minimum descent altitude (MDA) without having the required visual contact with either the approach lights or the runway;[1] and the copilot making no attempt to prevent the continuation of the flight below the minimum descent altitude. The report revealed that the pilot had failed to perform correct navigation and landing procedures before, but no action had been taken by the airline.[1]

The investigation report states that other factors also contributed to the accident: the range of hills the plane crashed into was not marked in the Jeppesen approach chart used by the crew, despite the hilly terrain the approach to runway 28 was not equipped with a minimum safe altitude warning (MSAW) system, which triggers an alarm if a minimum safe altitude is violated, and the airport's means of determining visibility were inadequate for runway 28 and the visual minimums at the time of the accident were actually inappropriate for using the standard approach to runway 28.[3]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

R.I.P. Melanie Thornton, and members of the band Passion Fruit Nathaly van het Ende and Maria Serrano Serrano who also lost their lives on Crossair flight 3597, we still remember with love.