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Mother, Cancer-Stricken Father Wait To Bury Son Killed In Newfoundland Crash

January 14, 1986

SLEEPY EYE, Minn. (AP) _ For Ken Witt, the effort to bury his son is a race against time. Witt is dying of cancer, and his son’s remains still have not been identified from the crash of a chartered military plane last month in Newfoundland.

The Dec. 12 crash killed 248 soldiers returning home for the holidays from peacekeeping duties in the Middle East. Eight crew members were also killed. The remains of Sgt. Kevin Witt and more than 130 other service personnel still are unidentified.

The wait has delayed funerals and memorial services and made the deaths seem unreal, families of some Minnesota victims say. They sometimes forget their loved one is dead.

For the Witt family, the wait has been particularly tragic. Kevin’s father, Ken Witt, has cancer and might not live to see his son buried, Adeline Witt said.

″With both of them going to be gone so soon, I just think, ’God, am I going to make it?‴ Mrs. Witt said Monday.

In addition to Kevin Witt, Pfc. Michael Nolan Jr. of Plymouth and Sgt. Tim Kidd of St. Paul are presumed dead. Sgt. Mark Kubic of Brooklyn Park also died in the crash and his remains were returned to family members, who held a funeral Jan. 3.

Army officials said Monday it could be two months before all the remains are identified. Many of the bodies were burned in the crash, the army has said.

Family members said they appreciate the Army’s efforts but the wait has been excruciating. ″No one sleeps (at our house),″ said Madelyn Kidd, sister-in-law of Tim Kidd. ″You can’t get done (with the grieving.)

″People call and say, ’How come there are no services planned?‴ she said. ″We don’t have a body to bury.″

The Pentagon assigns officers to victims’ spouses or parents. They help straighten out financial affairs, help make funeral arrangements or cut red tape.

The program has been particularly helpful to Cathy Witt, Kevin’s widow, and their 2-year-old daughter because it has dispelled rumors about the disposition of bodies, said Adeline Witt.

Nevertheless, the long delay has taken its toll, Adeline Witt said. Her husband has grown so weak that he can’t eat. She said she thinks he’s lost his will to live because he was not able to see his son or work through his grief.

″Once we can confront a part of it, it can be more final, real. At times, for just a little bit, I’ll be talking to someone and I’ll forget (that Kevin is dead). But the next minute, I’ll remember. I just know it’s going to take a long, long time to get used to it.″

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