On January 1st, 1985, Eastern Airlines Flight 980 departed Paraguay for Miami, with stops in Bolivia and Ecuador. The flight was crewed by Captain
Larry Campbell, First Officer Ken Rhodes, and Flight Engineer Mark Bird. Both Rhodes and Bird were former military, and Campbell was on his second
landing in La Paz.
Also on board were Marian Davis, wife of ambassador Arthur Davis, he was supposed to be in board but changed plans at the last minute. She continued
without him. Five members of the Matalon family from Paraguay. The family built an empire around selling appliances in Paraguay. It was later found
that quite a bit of contraband, in the form of alligator skins was also on board.
Landing in La Paz was enough of a challenge that Eastern required a check pilot on the first couple of landings. The navigation system in use at the
time, called Omega, was known to be several miles off at times, there was no radar at the airport, the altitude the airport was at required a much
higher landing speed, and the crew to be on supplemental oxygen while taxiing to the gate.
On this day, Eastern 980 was descending into the airport, with no sign of trouble, and was approximately 30 miles from the airport, in an area with
thunderstorms nearby. At 8:38 PM, they were at 20,000 feet, and had been cleared to descend to 18,000 feet. There was a single click heard on the
radio, which was the last anyone heard from them. The next day wreckage was found on Mt Illimani, which ultimately proved too much of a challenge for
investigators. Claims of no bodies or blood at the site were made, and ultimately the accident was reported as flight into terrain.
Enter Dan Futrell and his roommate Isaac Stoner. In 2016, Futrell was looking at a Wikipedia entry on unrecovered data recorders from plane crashes,
when he came across Eastern 980. He chose to accept the challenge and find and recover the recorders. After some serious planning and acclimation
using altitude tents, they set out for La Paz.the wreckage has been moving down the mountain with the glacier, and has become spread out.
On the first day, almost as soon as they got on site, they found a roll of magnetic tape that was similar to that used in data recorders of the time.
On the second day, as they were resting, and preparing to call it a day, Isaac Stoner uncovered a piece of debris with a wiring harness and CKPT VO
RCDR on it.
To keep them safe the two brought the tapes back to the US with them, hoping to interest the NTSB in them and figure out what happened. However, they
can't get anyone to touch them. They didn't know it, but by removing them they violated Annex 13 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation.
Until that situation was resolved no one would risk dealing with them, and current relations with Bolivia are bad enough that we may never find out
what really happened.