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Investigators Recover Guatemalan Airliner’s Recorders

January 20, 1986

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) _ Searchers recovered two in-flight recorders from the jetliner that crashed in northern Guatemala, killing all 94 people aboard, and officials said Monday they will be flown to the United States to help determine the cause of the disaster.

Col. Adolfo Corzo Anleu, head of Guatemalan civil aeronautics, said the recorders from the twin-engine Caravelle were found Sunday.

The plane, built in the late 1950s or early 1960s, crashed into the jungle Saturday morning on approach to the Santa Elena airport, 150 miles north of Guatemala City.

Search teams said the plane ripped a path through the jungle about eight miles northwest of the airport, strewing bodies and debris over a 300-yard area. They reported many of the bodies were burned or mutilated beyond recognition.

Jorge Escober of the National Weather Center said the French-made jet plunged to earth in ″good weather, the winds were calm and the visibility unlimited.″ The pilot had contacted the Santa Elena control tower at 7:58 a.m., about seven minutes before the scheduled arrival time, and gave no indication of any problem.

U.S. officials here said seven or eight Americans were among the victims, most of whom were flying to Santa Elena for a tour of the ancient Mayan ruins at Tikal 25 miles north of Santa Elena.

Aerovias, the private Guatemalan airline that was operating the Caravelle, said eight of the victims were listed on its passenger manifesto as being Americans.

But Larry Kerr, a U.S. consular officer, said one of the eight, Teresa Rodriguez, had dual nationality and was being listed as a Guatemalan pending completion of the investigation.

Aerovias had said Sunday that 93 passengers and crew perished, but on Monday it said a recheck of its records showed 94 people were killed.

The newspaper La Prensa said even more people may have been aboard.

The paper said its reporters had compiled a list of names and it showed that some victims identified and claimed by relatives at the crash site or in Santa Elena did not appear on the airline’s passenger manifesto.

Aerovias had rented the plane from the Ecuadoran airline Saeta. The airline and Guatemalan authorities said the crew was among the country’s most experienced.

Officials said the bodies of 12 of the 34 foreigners - from 11 countries -were identified by forensic specialists who worked through the night. They said 43 of the 60 Guatemalan victims also had been identifed either in Santa Elena or at a makeshift morgue in a hangar at the Guatemala City airport where most of the remains were received.

Among the foreigners killed were former Venezuelan Foreign Minister Aristides Calvani, his wife, Maria Adela, and two daughters, Maria Elena and Graciela.

Calvani was a close friend of President Vinicio Cerezo, and was in Guatemala to attend Cerezo’s inauguration last Tuesday as Guatemala’s first civilian president in 16 years. Cerezo heads Guatemala’s Christian Democrat Party, and Calvani was a leader of that party in Venezuela.

Officials here said they identified the bodies of John Puffett, an employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Ms. Rodriguez, but they did not have their hometowns.

The U.S. State Department on Sunday released the names of five Americans that it said perished in the crash, including Puffett but not Ms. Rodriquez.

Abel Giron, director of the capital’s Central Morgue where 10 unidentified victims remained at midday Monday, said all would be buried as unknowns in seperate graves on Wednesday if they could not be identified.

″The accident was Saturday. We can’t wait any longer than that,″ Giron told reporters.

Kerr said other unidentified bodies were at various funeral homes in Guatemala City.

The four other Americans listed by the State Department, with additional information provided by relatives, were Dr. Robert Todd Sweeney Jr., 39, and his wife, Patricia, 36, of Cincinnati, Ohio; Paul Consolvo of Virginia Beach, Va., and Jeffrey Sage of Long Island, N.Y., without a specific hometown.

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