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URGENT Poles Describe ‘Nightmarish’ Plane Crash Scene With AM-Poland-Plane, Bjt

May 9, 1987

WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ Poles who rushed to help Saturday described the site of Poland’s worst civil air disaster as a nightmarish landscape of charred and broken bodies, smoldering forest and twisted pieces of metal.

″There was no one left to save,″ said Anna Zagorska, 26, who was picking flowers in her yard when the Polish Lot Airlines jetliner crashed nearby, killing all 183 people aboard.

″Hands and legs were hanging from the trees. ... Bodies were lying all around,″ she said. ″It’s something I will never forget all my life.″

Ms. Zagorska said the windows in her house exploded when the chartered LOT Ilyushin 62M jetliner crashed 2,000 feet from her home in a forest preserve.

″It was one great nightmare,″ said a young policeman at the scene. ″You couldn’t see that it was a plane. There were just pieces of metal.″

He said he saw only one body that could be identified, the mutilated remains of a woman.

Wreckage was strewn hundreds of yards in a charred clearing made by the plane when it plunged into the forest and burned. It was bound for New York from Warsaw. Seventeen Americans were among the victims.

Soldiers shoveled dirt onto small fires to extinguish them. Firemen poured water on wreckage from hoses attached to trucks.

The wreckage, some hanging from trees, included pieces of the plane’s engine and fuselage, a charred doll wearing a Polish peasant’s costume, a burned notebook, gift-wrapped packages, bits of clothing.

A woman who had been driving with her husband on a nearby street said the plane was on fire and trailing smoke before it crashed.

″The plane was flying surprisngly low, swinging in the air, there was a trail of smoke and fire,″ said the woman, in an interview for Polish radio.

″There was a great fire, as if part of the woods was burning, and an explosion.″

Ambulances and firetrucks arrived within 10 minutes, but rescue workers could do little except douse fires.

Krzysztof Wisniewski, a senior fire brigade officer, said the plane skimmed off tree tops before striking the ground and burning.

″We were working at a construction site and we saw the plane flying so low that it was clear it would not make it″ said a young man interviewed by state radio. ″We grabbed some firefighting equipment, shovels, called the Piaseczno fire brigade and drove to the scene.″

″It all happened within 10 seconds,″ said another witness. ″I saw the plane come over the forest,″ he said. ″It must have been 10 meters (33 feet) above the trees. When it started tearing down trees, one could hear a big explosion, then initially smoke, then a fire.″

A LOT employee observed the scene, but refused to speak to reporters.

At LOT’s headquarters at Warsaw’s Okecie Airport, distraught family members of victms came to ask for information. They were assisted by nurses and a company lawyer.

Henryk Mackiewicz had just seen his wife Zofia off on the flight. She was bound for Denver and a reunion with the couple’s son.

″I heard about the accident at the railway station and rushed back here,″ the elderly man said, his faced etched with grief.

Mackiewicz watched the plane take off and remembered it was ″smoking quite a bit″ as it taxied toward the runway.

Residents who hurried to the crash site helped firefighters contain the blaze in the woods.

A state radio reporter on the scene said he found in the wreckage a charred note with the words, ″Welcome to the United States″ still readable.

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