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Families of Plane Crash Victims Grieving Year after Tragedy

January 21, 1986

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ The only person to survive a fiery plane crash that killed 70 people, including his father, a year ago is still troubled by the tragedy but is going to college and trying to ″make his life normal.″

″There’s no question in my mind that he’ll be troubled for some years,″ Victorine Lamson, 74, said of her grandson George Lamson Jr. ″They say you’re supposed to take a year or more to get over the death of a family member, and here is this terrible, terrible tragedy.″

Lamson, still strapped in his seat, was thrown free of Galaxy Airlines Flight 203 when it plowed into the ground shortly after takeoff in Reno, Nev., on Jan. 21, 1985. His father, George Lamson Sr., also lived through the crash but died eight days later.

Most of the charter plane’s passengers were Minnesotans returning from a weekend gambling junket.

″I still miss (George Sr.) a lot. I still can cry about it,″ Mrs. Lamson said. ″I’m all right if I don’t think about it or talk about it.″

She said her grandson, who declined to be interviewed, as did his mother Adrianne, ″is trying to make his life normal. I’ve never talked to him about the accident.

″I kind of stay away from that subject when I’m with him.″

Lamson, 18, is a freshman at St. Thomas College in St. Paul and is thinking about becoming a business major, said his roommate, Dale Massop of Mapleton.

″He’s sensitive, but he really takes it well,″ said Massop, 18. ″He kind of looks at it as one of life’s hard knocks and that’s a light way to put it.″

Anniversaries of such tragedies are especially difficult times for surviving relatives, according to a grief counselor who is holding a series of therapy sessions for families who lost relatives in the crash.

″Most people think that by the one-year anniversary you should be done grieving, and that’s not so,″ said Anthony Del Percio of the Wulff Family Mortuary in St. Paul. ″They’re forced to remember. And they’re going to remember very vividly.″

The National Transportation Safety Board concluded last week that the four- engine Lockheed Electra probably crashed because the pilot was distracted by severe vibration and failed to concentrate on keeping the plane in the air.

Del Percio said the NTSB’s year-long investigation and lawsuits over the crash have prolonged the grief.

″There’s a lot of anger with these families,″ he said. ″They’re so busy fighting for justice, or for some sort of closure to the incident, that they’ve not started grieving yet.″

Annette Frugale of Golden Valley, whose husband Louis was killed in the crash, said the unexpected return of his charred suitcase last spring via United Parcel Service was a painful reminder of the crash.

″I have a business here so I’m used to receiving packages UPS. So when it came I just opened it and when I saw what was inside I immediately put in it the garage,″ said Mrs. Fragale, 49. ″And then one sunny day I took it in the backyard and opened it.″

She said the only thing she saved from the suitcase was a charred football, which she presumes was intended to be a gift for a grandson.

Lamson and Mrs. Fragale have lawsuits pending against Florida-based Galaxy.

David Martin, an attorney whose firm represents Galaxy in some lawsuits, said claims stemming from the deaths of fewer than half of the passengers have been settled for undisclosed amounts.

At Reno, officials planned to dedicate a memorial Tuesday to the victims of the worst crash in the city’s history. Doris Isaeff, an organizer for Mayor Pete Sferrazza, said 71 giant redwood trees - one for each person aboard Flight 203 - would be planted in a park.

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