The flight crashed about twenty miles (thirty-two kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California. The aircraft was trying to divert to that airport. The last radio contact came while the plane was passing 17,000 feet at a low speed of 119 knots. The plane then rapidly descended from 17,000 feet. All 83 passengers and five crew members perished after the MD-83 crashed off the coast of Mount Pugu, California.
A report by the National Transportation Safety Board attributed the crash to insufficient lubrication of the plane's tail fin component, known as the jackscrew, which caused the plane's stabilizer to break off during flight.