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Note Found In Airliner Wreckage Promised No Mercy For Burke’s Supervisor

December 11, 1987

CAYUCOS, Calif. (AP) _ A fired airline employee scribbled a vengeful note on an airsickness bag informing his former supervisor that he would get no mercy aboard a doomed Pacific Southwest Airlines flight, authorities said.

″Hi Ray, I think it’s sort of ironical that we end up like this,″ read the unsigned message, which authorities said today was written in the handwriting of David Burke to Raymond Thomson. ″I asked for some leniency for my family, remember. Well I got none and you’ll get none.″

Investigators found the message amid the debris on a central California hillside where Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 1771 crashed Monday, said Richard Bretzing, special agent in charge of the FBI in Los Angeles.

FBI lab experts in Washington today confirmed the handwriting on the note was that of Burke, FBI spokesman Fred Reagan said in Los Angeles.

About 100 searchers worked at the crash site this morning, half as many as Thursday. They hoped to finish sorting body parts from debris today, said Fritz Patterson, a spokesman for the state Office of Emergency Services. It will take several days to clear the site completely, he said.

A .44-caliber Magnum pistol found Wednesday at the crash site was linked on Thursday to Burke.

″We have arrived at the point where we have the suspect we believe is responsible,″ Bretzing said. ″Were he still alive we have more than sufficient evidence to charge him.″

Officials also said evidence indicates an explosion as well as gunfire may have destroyed the plane as it crashed while bound from Los Angeles to San Francisco, killing all 43 aboard.

He also said a part of Burke’s body had been located and had been identified through a fingerprint check.

Burke, 35, worked 14 years for USAir, parent company of PSA. But he was fired as a Los Angeles customer service agent on Nov. 19 after a hidden camera filmed him allegedly stealing less than $100 from flight cocktail sales.

In a visit to San Francisco on an unspecified November date, Burke borrowed a .44-caliber Magnum Smith and Wesson handgun and 12 rounds of ammunition from Joseph Drabik, a friend and fellow USAir worker, said an FBI affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

The affidavit says Burke and Thomson met at 12:30 p.m. the day of the crash, and that after the meeting, Burke bought a one-way ticket for the PSA flight.

Thomson, 48, died in the crash.

Also Thursday, CBS News quoted sources as saying the cockpit voice recording for the doomed PSA flight quoted a flight attendant as saying: ″We’ve got a problem here.″

Another voice then responded, ″I’m the problem,″ the network said.

The exchange occurred after pilot Gregg N. Lindamood reported gunshots in the passenger compartment to air traffic controllers, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The newspaper, citing sources familiar with the tape, said sounds of a tremendous scuffle ensued, including ″a groan and a gasp″ from a man believed to be the pilot, as the plane plunged nose-first from 22,000 feet.

The FBI has determined that all six bullets had been fired from the gun.

Experts have said it was unlikely a handgun could cause enough damage to bring down the airliner unless the crew were disabled.

The FBI affidavit said that while the exact cause of the crash is not known, Don Llorente of the National Transportation Safety Board had told the bureau:

″On the basis of the dispersal of charred documents from PSA Flight 1771 spread over a seven-mile swath, the probability exists that the aircraft came apart at a higher altitude due to possible explosion, which would not have originated from a bullet.″

″There is no evidence that there were any problems with the plane or the engines,″ NTSB spokeswoman Rachel Halterman said Thursday.

The FBI affidavit said Burke ″had been allowed to bypass security screening as a familiar airline employee and therefore was not screened for weapons or destructive devices.″

An inventory list filed Thursday in federal court stated that agents seized two wills from Burke’s home, including one dated Dec. 2, and an insurance beneficiary designation dated Nov. 30. The FBI did not identify the designee.

Burke was believed to have used Drabik’s gun on Dec. 4 to briefly abduct his ex-girlfriend Jacqueline Camacho. She reported the incident to police, bt did not file charges.

Five hours after the crash of Flight 1771, Camacho told agents said she listened to a message on her telephone answering machine.

″Jackie, this is David. I’m on my way to San Francisco, Flight 1771. I love you. I really wish I could say more, but I do love you,″ the affidavit quoted the message as saying.

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