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TWA Service Brought Relief To Some Despite Controversy

December 5, 1996

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (AP) _ Angela Mercurio brought red roses, her brother’s house keys and letters from family members to a memorial service for the 15 people whose bodies were never recovered from the crash of TWA Flight 800.

Relatives placed mementos in empty coffins that were buried Wednesday after a private service sponsored by TWA.

Mercurio’s brother, 29-year-old Giuseppe Mercurio, was one of 230 people who perished in the July 17 disaster.

Several relatives drew little comfort from the service, instead drawing support from each other and sharply criticizing how the airline organized the burial.

Cindy Hurd, whose brother, James Hurd III, remains missing in the waters off Long Island, said the service ``has nothing to do with the families. This is closure for TWA.″

The families, in a letter, criticized TWA’s ``orchestration″ of the funeral service, held under a white tent at Pinelawn Memorial Park.

The letter complained that TWA didn’t include the families of the 215 victims whose bodies have been recovered, and criticized the airline for leaving it to the National Transportation Safety Board to notify them about the service.

TWA spokesman John McDonald said the airline knew it could not satisfy everyone.

``We will be criticized no matter what we do,″ he said. ``We provided an opportunity for them to be together. Whatever benefit they get from us is fine with us.″

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, R-N.Y., sent an angry letter to NTSB Chairman James Hall, complaining that the agency was not doing all it could to find the cause of the explosion. Authorities have said a bomb, a missile or a mechanical failure could have caused the blast.

``To delay in finding the reasons for this tragedy is not only an affront to its victims but an insult to all Americans,″ D’Amato wrote.

The NTSB did not return a telephone message seeking comment.

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