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Korean Air jet crashes on Guam

By Ju-Yeon Kim Associated Press Published: August 6, 1997 12:00 AM

The Boeing 747 from Seoul, South Korea, came to rest in a deep ravine three miles from its airport destination on this U.S. island possession in the South Pacific. Seventeen hours later, rescuers said they had found all the survivors.

"We scoured the whole area all day today," Air Force Col. Al Riggle said. "We know there are some bodies still down there, but it's smoldering too hot."

Flight 801 was carrying mostly Korean tourists, including many families heading to Guam's tropical beaches for vacation, when it crashed in a driving rain just before 2 a.m. (noon EDT Tuesday). On board were 23 crewmembers and at least 13 Americans.

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Sixty-nine bodies had been recovered from the smoldering wreckage by the time the rescue effort was called off for the night, said Ginger Cruz, a spokeswoman for Guam Gov. Carl Gutierrez. She said officials confirmed 30 survivors instead of the 35 figure

given earlier. At least two people had died later in the hospital.

The survivors came from the front of the plane, which was largely intact. But the plane's pilot and co-pilot were missing and presumed dead, the airline said.

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Gutierrez, one of the first people on the scene, said rain-soaked sawgrass covering the rocks made it so slippery it was impossible to carry survivors more than a few hazardous steps. Hundreds of rescuers had to make their way through mud and the towering

, razor-sharp sawgrass.

"It was eerie. As I got close to the scene I could hear the screams," he said. "We only had a single flashlight. We had to follow the sounds to find them."

Among the survivors he pulled from the plane was an 11-year-old Japanese girl, slightly hurt, trying to tend to a critically injured flight attendant.

Lt. Cmdr. Jim Lehner, head of the rescue operation, said he heard a small voice call out in Korean. He pulled a child from the wreckage, then found her mother. Some survivors walked away, he said.

On a hilltop overlooking the crash site, a 29-year-old South Korean, Cho Kyui-young, sat crying with her face in her lap, handkerchief drenched.

"My husband," she said, sobbing.

In Glendale, Calif., Meena Park waited in anguish. Her youngest sister, Meejin Park Lee, and 8-year-old niece, Tiffany Kang, were on board.

"I told them I could help them. I told them I could give them a hand," Ms. Park said. "And I would help them dig in the mud."

One South Korean survivor, Hong Hyon-sung, 35, said there was no fire or explosion before the crash.

A woman grabbed his feet as he climbed out of the plane, he told KBS-TV. "I helped her out and we ran away, fearing that the plane may explode."

The plane, a used Boeing 747-300 delivered to Korean Air in 1984, was trying to land at an airport that lacked both a main landing system and a government-staffed control tower.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team to investigate. The voice and flight-data recorders have been sent to Washington for analysis.

Two Navy CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters, with pilots wearing night-vision goggles, rescued at least 30 survivors, many with burns.

With the jet still smoldering, Navy Seabees moved in backhoes to crack open the fuselage and try to rescue anyone who might still be alive.

"We were getting there and people were just screaming. We wanted to help everybody but we couldn't," said police officer Carlos Roman.

Later, the Navy began clearing a road to the otherwise inaccessible crash site.

In Seoul, Korean Air began notifying victims' relatives, some of whom collapsed in grief. South Korean President Kim Young-sam said, "I can't suppress the overflowing sorrow."

About 500 relatives gathered at Kimpo International Airport, awaiting word about loved ones. By this evening, many were frustrated by what they considered the airline's ineffective handling of the crash. About 100 of them staged a sit-down on an eight-lan

e street in front of a Korean Air building, shouting "Korean Air, you swindlers!"

The evening rush hour traffic came to a standstill during the 30-minute protest. Police stood by in the distance and did not try to intervene. The relatives, mostly female, broke up voluntarily.

Airline vice-president Lee Tae-won said a U.S. military transport plane will take the survivors back to Seoul on Thursday.

The A.B. Won Pat International Airport control tower lost contact with the plane about 1:50 a.m. today (11:50 a.m. EDT Tuesday).

A landing system known as the glide slope, which leads planes to the runway, had been out of service at the airport. Such outages are not uncommon, and pilots routinely land with the help of an electronic devices that provide locators.

The tiny tropical island, 4,000 miles west of Honolulu, is home to 150,000 people. It was ceded to the United States by Spain in the 1898 Treaty of Paris, and briefly occupied by Japan during World War II. Today, U.S. military bases take up roughly a thir

d of its 212 square miles.

Korean Air usually uses an Airbus for the Seoul-Guam route but the Boeing was pulled in to carry more people during the summer tourist season.

In another crash involving the Korean airline, 269 people were killed in 1983 when Korean Air Lines Flight 007 was shot down by a Soviet fighter plane after the jetliner strayed into Soviet air space. The company dropped "Lines" from its name after the cr


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