Washington In Mourning Over Brown's Death
Washington In Mourning Over Brown's Death
Apr. 04, 1996
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A stunned capital was in mourning today. Flags flew at half-staff and grief hung over the Commerce Department on a sunny spring day that should have held the promise of new life.
The bodies of Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and his entire entourage had been found, recovered from a plane crash in Croatia on Wednesday.
A grieving President Clinton, whom Brown helped win the White House in 1992, ordered flags flown at half-staff in the nation's capital. On Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange was observing a moment of silence.
Clinton called Brown's widow early today to notify her that the secretary's body had been identified, said presidential spokesman Mike McCurry.
The president joined other administration officials at a brief memorial service at nearby St. John's Church. The service was scheduled at the request of the White House, McCurry said, so that Clinton and his aides could ``reflect in a private way on the loss of Secretary Brown.''
At the Pentagon, Air Force Lt. Gen. Howell Estes III said search crews were trying to determine the number of people on the plane. A passenger list for the flight showed 33 Americans and two Croatians but, as of today, only 33 bodies had been recovered.
Contrary to reports from Croatia, Estes said he did not believe the Air Force passenger plane carried a voice or data recorder. He also defended the relatively old technology used to guide the plane toward the Dubrovnik airport prior to the crash.
``It is a kind of an approach that's been around for a while, there's no question about that, but it's still a very valid approach,'' Estes said. ``Many aircraft have landed at the airport there at Dubrovnik with no difficulty. If we thought it wasn't a safe approach we wouldn't allow our aircraft to use it.''
The Air Force and the National Transportation Safety Board dispatched a team to Dubrovnik to investigate Wednesday's crash near the Adriatic coast. And the Army field headquarters in Tuzla, Bosnia, assembled an emergency team to help search for bodies amid high winds and sheets of rain.
``We have found the last victim,'' Croatian Interior Minister Ivan Jarnjak told the state HINA news agency today, confirming that none of the 33 aboard survived the crash of the U.S. Air Force plane.
The State Department was waiting to release the names of the victims pending notification of their families.
Clinton, visiting the Commerce Department's Washington headquarters on Wednesday to deliver the tragic news, praised Brown.
``He was one of the best advisers and ablest people I ever knew. And he was very, very good at everything he ever did,'' Clinton told about 700 Commerce employees, several huddled together in stunned sorrow.
With first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and most of the Cabinet on hand, Clinton led Brown's subordinates, many of them weeping, in silent prayer.
Clinton and his wife joined a parade of friends and dignitaries who trekked to Brown's home to comfort his wife, Alma. Longtime political allies of the former Democratic Party chief _ Sen. Edward Kennedy, former National Urban League chief Jordan and others _ were among the visitors.
Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros described the mood in the Brown household.
``They're proud and they have a lot of reason to be proud of Ron's accomplishments. They are strong people and they're holding up,'' Cisneros said.
According to Estes, the jetliner carried six crew members and 27 American passengers, including Brown, several aides and more than a dozen senior executives on a mission to stimulate U.S. corporate interest in rebuilding Bosnia. In addition, a Croatian photographer and translator were on board. But government officials were still trying to confirm the total number of passengers.
Among them were Walter Murphy, a senior vice president for AT&T Submarine Systems Inc. of Morristown, N.J.; Robert A. Whittaker, chairman and chief executive officer of Foster Wheeler Energy International, Clinton, N.J.; and John A. Scoville, chairman of Harza Engineering Co., Chicago.
In a statement announcing that one of its vice presidents was aboard the plane, the Riggs National Bank of Washington said, ``We have been told that the crash left no survivors.''
The T-43 aircraft that crashed 1.8 miles north of the runway at the airport near Dubrovnik was the same plane used earlier this week to shuttle Defense Secretary William Perry and, last week, Mrs. Clinton through Bosnia.
Estes said the plane, an Air Force version of the Boeing 737, was making an instrument landing when it apparently veered off course and into the 2,300-foot hillside.
The Air Force said in a statement that the 23-year-old plane was not equipped with a ``black box'' flight data recorder, unlike commercial planes and most Air Force planes used to carry VIPs and other passengers.
The devices record voice transmissions and information about the plane's systems and are often used to help investigators determine the cause of crashes.
Estes said the crew manning the Dubrovnik tower reported no signs of emergency before the plane disappeared from their radar.
``There were no calls made indicating any kind of a problem aboard the aircraft,'' Estes said. ``They were in contact with the tower, making their approach when contact was lost.''
Brown was a former Senate aide to Kennedy and later worked in Kennedy's 1980 primary challenge to President Carter. After leaving his Senate job, he became one of Washington's top lobbyists, and in 1988 he was Jesse Jackson's top aide at the Democratic National Convention. Two years later he won the Democratic National Committee chairmanship, becoming the first black to lead either of the major parties.
As Clinton's Commerce secretary, Brown's frequent foreign trips became a target for Republican criticisms. His personal financial dealings also were criticized, and were the subject of an investigation by an independent counsel.