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Grieving Relatives Fly from U.S. for Mass

May 13, 1987

WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ Several dozen grieving relatives arrived from the United States on Wednesday to say last farewells to loved ones who were among the 183 people killed in Poland’s worst air disaster.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials said a team of FBI forensic experts was scheduled to arrive here Thursday to help Polish investigators identify victims of Saturday’s crash of a LOT Polish Airlines Ilyushin 62-M jetliner.

About 2,000 people, including bereaved family members and LOT employees dressed in their blue-and-white uniforms, attended a memorial Mass for crash victims Wednesday at St. John’s Cathedral in Warsaw.

At the close of the Mass, a priest read a letter of condolences from Cardinal Jozef Glemp, the Roman Catholic primate, who wrote that ″the tragedy filled all Poles with pain.″

″We are praying for (the victims) tonight with our hearts tight with sorrow,″ the letter said. ″We understand the tears and pain of all the families, (and) we understand the depression of the entire LOT enterprise.″

Earlier, there were tearful reunions at Warsaw’s Okecie Airport as waiting Polish family members greeted relatives from the United States with bouquets of flowers, hugs and kisses, and consoling words.

About 20 relatives arrived on an early morning LOT flight from New York and were taken to local hotels by a special bus provided by LOT. More arrived on flights throughout the day.

″I’m coming to get my husband ... if I can find him,″ said Genvieve Paszczuk, 51, of New Britain, Conn., whose husband, Bogdan, and his brother, Henryk, died in the crash.

A LOT official, Andrzej Swierczynski, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that Warsaw officials would decide Thursday whether any remains could be released to families for burial.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Paul Smith said an eight-member FBI team of forensic experts was bringing sophisticated forensic equipment not available in Poland for help in victim identification. Officials said most of the bodies were burned beyond recognition.

Most of the victims were Polish citizens. Officials said 25 were U.S. citizens or held dual U.S.-Polish citizenship.

The fatal crash occurred after the plane developed engine trouble and tried to return to the Warsaw airport. Instead it plunged into a forest three miles short of the runway.

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