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Plane Similar to One That Crashed Killing 183 Makes Emergency Landing

May 12, 1987

WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ A Polish jetliner with 107 people aboard returned to Warsaw’s airport for an emergency landing, two days after a similar plane bound for New York tried to do the same and crashed in a disaster that killed 183 people.

A LOT Polish Airlines Ilyushin-62M jet bound for Iraq on Monday evening developed a mechanical problem and returned safely to Okecie airport about an hour after takeoff, Krzysztof Jaskot, LOT assistant general manager, said Tuesday. No injuries were reported.

Two days earlier, on Saturday, another LOT Ilyushin-62M jetliner bound for New York with 183 people developed engine trouble and tried to return to the airport but crashed three miles short, killing everyone aboard.

LOT said there were 17 U.S. passport holders aboard that flight, and U.S. officials said there were at least eight other people with dual Polish and American citizenship. The remaining people were Polish citizens.

″We are oversensitive now as you can imagine,″ Jaskot said, in explaining why the Bagdhad-bound plane returned with only a ″minor malfunction.″

He said the pilot turned around one hour into the flight after developing a problem with a device that helps pilots keep the planes level.

The problem ″had no effect on the course of the plane,″ but the pilot, who was 175 miles south of Warsaw when the problem occurred, dumped the plane’s fuel over a designated area and returned to Warsaw, Jaskot said.

He said the plane was ready to fly again shortly afterward but the flight was postponed until Tuesday because Baghdad’s airport closed overnight.

After spending the night in local hotels, the passengers left for Baghdad aboard the same plane Tuesday.

Following Saturday’s crash, LOT officials ordered the inspection of all six remaining Ilyushin-62Ms in its fleet. Jaskot said the initial inspection of the planes revealed no technical defects but experts were still examining the jets.

Polish government spokesman Jerzy Urban told reporters all of the Soviet- made planes were acquired by LOT in the early 1980s. The plane that crashed Saturday began service in 1984 and had logged 7,000 flight hours, 3,000 hours short of its first, scheduled general inspection, Urban said.

Meanwhile, a Transport Ministry spokesman said a team of Soviet aviation experts had joined the Polish commission investigating Saturday’s crash.

Spokesman Stefan Pozniak said the Soviets were representatives of the plane’s manufacturer and were analyzing the recovered sections of the aircraft.

″It’s a normal practice in such cases,″ Pozniak said.

Polish authorities on Tuesday for the first time allowed Western photographers to tour the sight of Saturday’s crash. An AP photographer on the tour said salvage crews were using dogs to sniff through the wreckage for more bodies. Other workers used cranes to lift sections of the plane.

He said he saw workers recover parts of human bodies buried in the ground.

″There is still the strange smell of fuel and burning flesh,″ one of the workers told the photographer.

Polish police sealed off the wooded area shortly after the crash, but a Warsaw newspaper reported Tuesday at least one attempt at looting had occurred. Jerzy Bogucki, a witness of the crash, told the Express Wieczorny newspaper he saw a woman try to grab money from a bag right after the fiery crash.

″There was a woman, about 65 years old, who was reaching for an open bag with dollar notes sticking out. I just pushed her away,″ he told the paper.

But Edward Gierski, deputy chief of Warsaw’s fire brigade, said he did not believe what he called rumors of alleged looting.

″When the first fire engines arrived at the scene, there had already been some civilians there, but the heat and the raging flames made it impossible for them to approach the wreckage,″ Gierski told another newspaper, Kurier Polski.

Urban said the Polish government had accepted a U.S. offer to send a team of forensic experts to help Polish investigators in the difficult task of identifying the charred remains of the 183 victims.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Paul Smith said the team would bring sophisticated forensic equipment, but he said he did not know when the experts would arrive. Officials have said that many of the bodies were burned beyond recognition.

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