Terror-filled Last Moments on Doomed Flight With PM-Poland-Plane Bjt
CHARLES J. GANS
May. 11, 1987
WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ In the final minutes of LOT Polish Airlines Flight No. 5055, one passenger desperately scribbled a last message to a loved one and the pilot radioed the airport, ''Farewell, I'm falling down.''
For 30 minutes, the 183 people aboard the plane knew it was partially disabled and struggling back toward Warsaw's Okecie Airport, police said.
The veteran pilot, Capt. Zygmunt Pawlaczyk, managed to divert the crippled plane away from a housing development of 120,000 people and crashed into a forest, said a Polish reporter, quoting unidentifed airport officials.
Lt. Col. Franciszek Pawlowski, a police investigator at the crash site in Kabaty Forest near Warsaw, told Polish television at least one hastily written note from a passenger was found Sunday among the burned and broken wreckage.
The note read: ''Plane breakdown. I don't know what will happen. Domeracka,'' he reported.
''She was fully aware of what was happening,'' Pawlowski said.
The victims included Mrs. Halina Domeracka, 58, of Warsaw.
Television news also showed a U.S. passport belonging to Julianna Oberbeck.
Examining the remains of the cockpit's flight crew Sunday, Pawlowski said the pilot was ''conscious of the situation, conscious of the danger.''
''He said, 'Farewell, I'm falling down,' and he fell,'' Pawlowski said, quoting a recording of the pilot's conversation with the airport tower.
Jerzy Slowinski, LOT's general director, told a news conference he could not confirm reports that the 59-year-old pilot had steered the plane into the forest, but added:
''I think our crews are prepared to do such things. It is the nature of our experienced pilots ... that in case of a bigger danger they try to avoid it if possible.''
In Warsaw, Americans who lost friends or relatives on the flight began arriving from New York. They had awaited the flight at Kennedy International Airport on Saturday.
Stanley Baldyga said he was going to meet his father, Wladyslaw, 63, for the first time in more than 20 years and bring him to his home in Seven Hills, Ohio. Then came the news of a fiery airplane crash near Warsaw.
''At the first moment, I was hoping that my father wasn't on that plane,'' Baldyga told The Associated Press on Sunday. ''I called the Polish Embassy and they confirmed that was the flight number.
''After two or three hours, they confirmed that my father was dead, just like everyone else on the plane.
''I called my father two weeks ago and he was so happy that he was coming to see me after such a long time,'' Baldyga said.