Relatives Circle Crash Site in Chartered Helicopters
TOKYO (AP) _ Sobbing and praying, dozens of bereaved relatives in chartered helicopters circled the forested mountaintop today where a Japan Air Lines 747 jumbo jet crashed 10 days ago, killing all but four of 524 people aboard.
Rainy weather lifted at midday to permit the first of several flights by the helicopters, chartered by the airline at the request of families of victims whose bodies have either not been found or not been identified.
Pilots tossed flowers, chocolates and letters from cockpit windows as two twin-rotor helicopters circled for 15 minutes above 5,408-foot Mt. Osutaka, 70 miles northwest of Tokyo.
About 80 people rode on the first four trips, with more scheduled to follow. Five JAL officials accompanied them.
Below, workers continued to search for bodies and pieces of the Boeing 747 that might help explain commercial aviation’s worst single-plane disaster.
Kyodo News Service said Mrs. Sumiko Ono asked a helicopter pilot to pour whisky from his cockpit because her husband ″liked it very much.″
The news service quoted Mrs. Masako Akashi, whose husband and daughter were killed, as saying, ″I would have liked to jump from the window.″
At Fujioka, the city 25 miles to the east where bodies have been collected and identified in a temporary morgue, airline spokesman Yoshitaka Kuchiba said JAL arranged the flights in response to ″strong requests″ from about 400 relatives of the more than 100 victims still not accounted for.
JAL Flight 123 crashed after its tail fin disintegrated and its hydraulic systems failed during a flight from Tokyo to Osaka. Only four female passengers survived.
As of Wednesday, Gunma prefectural police spokesman Yoshinobu Shibukawa said in a telephone interview, 489 bodies had been recovered and 412 had been identified. Doctors say some of the bodies may never be identified.
A woman who survived the crash said her 8-year-old daughter, who also survived, urged her to stay awake and live through the night until rescuers reached the crash site.
Hiroko Yoshizaki, 35, said that after the crash she was almost unconscious because of pain, but that her daughter, Mikiko, shouted: ″Don’t go to sleep mother 3/8 Stay awake or you’ll die 3/8 I’m hungry mother 3/8″
Mrs. Yoshizaki gave the account from a hospital bed to her mother, Matsue Hara, who provided it to The Associated Press in a telephone interview Tuesday.
Mrs. Hara quoted her daughter as saying that when she regained consciousness after the crash, she reached out for her husband and her 7-year- old daughter, Yukari, and found them both dead.
She could not find her son, but heard Mikiko shouting at her to stay awake.