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Crews gather body parts from airplane crash site in Greek mountains

December 22, 1997

ANA MILIA, Greece (AP) _ Surrounded by the stench of jet fuel, military crews collected mangled corpses Sunday from the slushy alpine valley where 70 people perished in the crash of a Ukrainian passenger jet.

The remains of the victims, mostly Greeks and Ukrainians, were taken for identification to the northern port of Salonica _ the destination of the chartered Yak-42 when it went down late Wednesday.

The plane almost completely disintegrated on impact and left a 660-foot swath of clipped and uprooted trees. Only a piece of wing and part of the cockpit remained intact.

The crash site was a ``total disaster,″ said Filippos Petsalnikos, a government minister.

The pilot, who had never before landed in Salonica, apparently became disoriented as he began a second landing attempt at the airport. He started his descent while still in rugged mountains about 40 miles southwest of the runway, Greek aviation officials said.

The wreckage, located Saturday after a search slowed by dense fog and clouds, was charred and showed evidence of the intense heat that consumed the aircraft after it crashed. Some bodies were fused to the fragments of the plane. Other people were torn apart.

Legs, arms and other body parts were scattered throughout the bloodstained snow, which turned to a thick slush after rain began Sunday.

Passports, documents and bits of luggage were scattered across the crash site or hanging from the bare branches of oak and beech trees in the 4,000-foot-high valley near the small village of Ana Milia. The cold rain washed away the message on a Christmas card that had been carried by carried by a passenger.

The removal of the last of the bodies was expected to resume Monday.

The Soviet designed Yak-42 and flight crew were pressed into service after the original chartered plane, a Boeing 737, experienced engine trouble after taking off from Kiev, Ukraine. The passengers boarded the ill-fated jet in Odessa.

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