Fired Employee's Badge Found At Wreck Site, Paper Reports
Dec. 15, 1987
SAN DIEGO (AP) _ The airline identification badge of a fired USAir employee was found amid the pieces of a Pacific Southwest Airlines plane he is believed to have brought down, killing all 43 aboard, a newspaper reported today.
The San Diego Union cited an unidentified source who requested anonymity in its story about the badge being uncovered amid the wreckage of Flight 1771 in San Luis Obispo County.
The recovery of the badge would contradict statements by company officials last week that David Augustus Burke, 35, of Long Beach surrendered his badge after he was fired. PSA's parent company is USAir.
''The identification badge with a photo was definitely found and it was definitely David Burke's,'' the paper quoted the source as saying.
A PSA spokeswoman told The Associated Press late Monday night the airline had heard rumors that the badge had been found but couldn't confirm the reports.
PSA spokeswoman Margery Craig said airline employees sometimes accumulate several badges during their employment.
''Anything is possible,'' Ms. Craig said of Burke having a second badge. ''I have no idea if he had duplicate badges.''
FBI officials refused to comment to the newspaper report.
Federal authorities believe Burke may have used his airline identification badge to evade weapons detection devices and smuggle a gun aboard Flight 1771 on Dec. 7 with the intention of killing his former boss, who was a passenger on the plane.
Federal authorities say Burke may have shot Raymond Thomson, 48, the USAir station manager in Los Angeles, and then the crew of the BAe 146, causing the plane to plunge 22,000 feet into a remote central California cow pasture.
Burke was fired by Thomson Nov. 19 for allegedly stealing $69 in beverage receipts. Both men were among Flight 1771's dead.
USAir said immediately following the crash that Burke surrendered his USAir identification card when he was dismissed, and the card was destroyed.
FBI spokesman Fred Reagan told the Union he could neither confirm nor deny reports that the card was found.
The incident has prompted a congressional subcommittee to schedule hearings for Thursday on security at six airports, including Los Angeles International. The hearings had been planned for March.
Among the issues to be covered at the hearings, before the House Government Operations Subcommittee on Government Activities and Transportation, are the issuing of identification badges to airline employees and other people who work around airports.
A .44-caliber Magnum pistol and six spent shells were found in the wreckage scattered over 20 acres. FBI investigators said the gun was loaned to Burke.
The plane's voice recorder recovered at the crash scene revealed an intruder was in the cockpit before the crash.
Shortly before the plane crashed, the flight crew declared an emergency, saying gunshots had been fired in the passenger cabin.
Also recovered at the crash scene was a note reportedly in Burke's handwriting on an airsickness bag. It said: ''Hi Ray, I think it's sort of ironical that we end up like this. I asked for some leniency for my family, remember. Well I got none and you'll get none.''