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Memorial Held For Dead Commuter Pilot; Flight Attendant Returns to Wreckage

August 25, 1995

DUBLIN, Ga. (AP) _ The flight attendant who calmed passengers while a crippled commuter plane crashed into a hayfield returned to the wreckage after being released from the hospital Thursday, and hundreds gathered to remember the pilot whose skillful flying is credited with saving lives.

Robin Fech, the only attendant aboard the Atlantic Southeast Airlines plane that crashed Monday, limped around the scattered wreckage on a crutch less than an hour after leaving the hospital.

``It was suggested by her physician as part of her counseling and therapy,″ said Donna Maxwell, a spokeswoman for Tanner Medical Center in Carrollton, near the crash site.

Fech was treated for a broken arm, cuts and bruises. Passengers said she had the efficiency of a drill sergeant as she prepared them for the crash, and then helped some of them escape despite her own injuries.

With her arm in a sling, Fech toured the site accompanied by her mother, Claudette Underwood, Carroll County Sheriff Jack Bell and airline officials. She left in a limousine, its back seat stuffed with flowers she received in the hospital.

Fech did not speak to reporters, but Bell said he heard her say that ``the wreckage just ... didn’t look like she remembered it.″ He said she was ``very calm and straightforward″ during the tour.

``That lady did a lot out there,″ Bell said. ``She’s one of the reasons a lot of those people lived.″

Five of the 29 people aboard were killed, including pilot Ed Gannaway. Seven remained critically injured with burns Thursday.

In Gannaway’s hometown of Dublin, about 120 miles southeast of Atlanta, 1,100 mourners gathered for a memorial service at the First United Methodist Church.

``He was always working for others in love _ for his family, for his friends, for his church, for his community,″ the Rev. Larry Roberts, church pastor, told the crowd.

Gannaway, 45, was also remembered for his work with the Boy Scouts and his love of running. About 20 large floral arrangements surrounded the alter: One was in the shape of a plane; another was designed as a pair of running shoes.

Among the mourners were 40 uniformed Boy Scouts and five Scout leaders. Two of Gannaway’s three sons are members of their troop.

Gannaway had been able to bring the plane down in the hayfield, avoiding trees and power lines despite losing power in the left engine.

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board found that the left propeller blade apparently snapped during the flight, said John Hammerschmidt, who is leading NTSB investigation.

An abnormality that was not specified had been found in the propeller blade during an inspection a year ago, but maintenance records showed it had been corrected, Hammerschmidt said.

Experts said Thursday that it is not uncommon for faulty propellers to be fixed and reused.

``The blades have a considerable life and they can be repaired,″ said Alan Pollock, an NTSB spokesman.

Stuart Matthews, president of the Flight Safety Foundation in Arlington, Va., said flaws are ``modified″ so that propellers can be reused.

``You don’t throw something away every time it breaks,″ he said.

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