The aircraft was a twin-engine McDonnell Douglas MD-82 with registration N312RC and was carrying 149 passengers and 6 crew.
Flight 255 departed Saginaw for a flight to Detroit, Phoenix and Santa Ana, arriving at Detroit at 19.42h. Pushback for departure was accomplished at 20.34 and the crew received taxi instructions for runway 3C. During the taxi out, the captain missed the turnoff at taxiway C and new taxi instructions were given. At 20.42 Flight 255 was told to taxi into position on runway 3C and hold, followed by a takeoff clearance two minutes later. Shortly after rotation the stick shaker (stall warning) activated. The aircraft rolled left and right and the left wing struck a light pole in a car rental lot. Flight 255 continued to roll to the left, continued across the car lot, struck a light pole in a second rental car lot and struck the side wall of the roof in a 90deg left wing down attitude. The plane was still rolling to the left when it impacted the ground on a road outside the airport boundary and continued to slide along the road, striking a railroad embankment, disintegrating and bursting into flames.
The lone survivor of the aircraft was four-year-old Cecelia Cichan of Tempe, Arizona. Cecelia Cichan's mother, Paula Cichan, died in the crash, along with her father, Michael, and her 6-year-old brother, David. After the crash, Cecelia Cichan lived with relatives in Birmingham, Alabama, who shielded her from public attention.
PROBABLE CAUSE: "The flight crew's failure to use the taxi checklist to ensure that the flaps and slats were extended for take-off. Contributing the the accident was the absence of electrical power to the airplane take-off warning system which thus did not warn the flight crew that the airplane was not configured properly for take-off. The reason for the absence of electrical power could not be determined."