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EgyptAir Crew Members Were To Wed

November 2, 1999

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Soha and Rania Rida, who are sisters, were engaged to two EgyptAir cabin crew members, Mohammed Galal and Hasan Toufic. By a cruel twist of fate, both men were serving on Flight 990 when it plummeted from the sky into the Atlantic.

The sisters and 71 other relatives of crash victims flew aboard another EgyptAir flight today to New York to begin a grim wait in a Rhode Island hotel, hoping searchers will be able to pull the bodies of their loved ones from the cold sea waters.

The Rida sisters were the only women in the group. Sobbing silently, they climbed the steps into the aircraft as other relatives followed in a single file.

``I wish I had been on that flight. I wish it had been me who had been sacrificed,″ EgyptAir chairman Mohammed Fahim Rayan told the relatives before boarding the flight with them.

He headed a delegation of 39 government officials _ including civil aviation chairman Mamdouh Hishmat and Murad Shawqi, chairman of the Aviation Safety Board _ who traveled with the families of the victims to the United States. The rest of the officials were from state-run EgyptAir.

The officials plan to help in the investigation and assist families of the victims.

About 80 relatives in the United States had already arrived in Rhode Island, the staging point for the search operations.

The EgyptAir officials on today’s flight had pinned black ribbons on their chest pockets with a tag saying: ``Team assisting families of victims.″

``I still can’t believe what happened,″ Rania, who was engaged to Toufic, told The Associated Press earlier.

She said her fiancee had called her the night before the crash and told her he had bad feelings about the flight.

``He said, `I feel that something bad is going to happen,′ ″ Rania murmured, clutching a copy of the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

Abdel-Razik Mohammed Munir, who was going to look for his nephew, Mohammed Mahmoud el-Sayed, a navy lieutenant, said: ``I am going to see what there is to find.″ He then plaintively asked Rayan, the airline chairman, ``Do you know what kind of condition the corpses will be in? I am afraid they might be decomposed and hard to identify.″

Some relatives who did not have passports were issued the documents on Monday. The U.S. Embassy scrapped normal procedures to speed up the issuing of visas, and spokesman Dave Ballard said the embassy received hundreds of calls to a special information line it set up.

The relatives on board the Boeing 777 were to be sequestered upon arrival in New York and flown on a chartered flight to Warwick, R.I.

With the departure, the area around EgyptAir’s help desk in Cairo’s airport fell silent. Until Monday, it was teeming with weeping and sobbing relatives of crash victims.

One of them was Tarek Anwar, whose brother, Adel, was the co-pilot of the ill-fated flight. Adel was to be married Friday. Eager to return home and get ready, he had swapped shifts and taken a colleague’s place in the cockpit of Flight 990.

On Sunday, the day of the flight, his fiancee quit work at a travel agency, planning to become a homemaker. She’d been packing bags, decorating the apartment and getting ready for their honeymoon.

``He traveled a lot. It was just another regular flight,″ said Anwar, tears quietly streaming down his face. ``Or so we thought.″