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Monday ceremonies honor victims of Grand Canyon air disaster

First Published      Last Updated Jun 30 2014 06:44 pm

Family members and people from around the nation gathered for two wreath laying ceremonies Monday to remember passengers and crew who died when two planes collided over the Grand Canyon 58 years ago.

READ MORE: What happened: Grisly 1956 aviation disaster over the Grand Canyon

On June 30, 1956, United Airlines Flight 718 and Trans World Airlines Flight 2 collided at 21,000 feet, killing 128 people and spreading debris around a 1.5 mile radius.

The crash site in Grand Canyon National Park recently received National Historic Landmark status. The official dedication ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. on July 8 at the Desert View Amphitheater looking out toward the crash site.

The ceremony will remember those who perished in the crash, recognize the significance of the accident, and acknowledge family members and friends of the crash victims, the service said in a statement.

The accident helped spur federal regulation of airways. Two years later, the Federal Aviation Agency, now the Federal Aviation Administration, was created by executive order.

On Monday, more than 50 family members of crash victims participated in ceremonies at the United Airlines Memorial in Grand Canyon Pioneer Cemetery and the TWA Memorial in the Flagstaff Citizens Cemetery.

"It's a very emotional experience for many of those that were participating," said Kirby-Lynn Shedlowski, public affairs official for Grand Canyon National Park. "For some of them it was their first visit to Grand Canyon. It's the first time many of them have met as family members of those who have perished."

After a blessing from a local pastor and the presentation of a color guard, family members each laid a single white rose on the memorials to the sound of "Taps."