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Rescuers Searching For Last American Airlines Crash Victim

January 5, 1996

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Search dogs have been sent to the Andean mountain where an American Airlines jet crashed two weeks ago to try to find the only remaining missing victim, a 9-year-old New Jersey boy.

Although Colombian officials had said they recovered the bodies of all 160 victims from the Dec. 20 crash, American Airlines confirmed Thursday that Michael Claros of Hillsborough, N.J., remained unaccounted for.

The boy’s mother and sister died in the crash. Four people and a dog survived.

``We have a group of technical experts along with some search dogs that were flown up to make an intensive effort to find the body,″ said Al Becker, a spokesman at the airline’s headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas.

The boy’s father, Edison Claros, said he planned to join search of the densely wooded mountain. The father had not been on the flight.

Rescuers found most of the bodies during the first few days after the crash, but in some cases, they found only body parts.

The attorney general’s office, meanwhile, said it will investigate whether negligence by Cali air traffic controllers caused the crash. The Boeing 757 from Miami had been headed for the southwestern Colombian city when it went down.

The attorney general can recommend only disciplinary action such as firing or suspension. The prosecutor general’s office has said it has no plans to conduct a criminal investigation.

Colombian forensic tests found alcohol in the remains of the plane’s pilot, Nicholas Tafuri. But the airline said that doesn’t necessarily mean he was drinking before the crash.

Experts say the decay of body tissues after death can create alcohol.

A report last week by Colombian civil aviation authorities suggested crew members were negligent, saying there was no indication they did a basic checklist before the descent into Cali.

But two veteran American Airlines pilots have said that Cali controllers misguided the plane by asking it to report a radio beacon it had already passed.

The pilots, who spoke to The Miami Herald on condition of anonymity, said the plane was looking for the beacon when it veered off course and crashed 40 miles from Cali.

The National Transportation Safety Board in Washington is examining the ``black box″ recorders from the plane, which record instrument readings and conversations in the cockpit. A final determination is not expected for months.

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