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Loved Ones Head To Crash Scene

September 4, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ In some ways, they were like any planeload of passengers: some old, some young, some in suits, some in shorts, some traveling alone and some families.

Most carried overnight bags; one young woman had a bouquet.

But the families kept exchanging sorrowful hugs. The faces were uniformly grim. All the passengers wore ID badges around their necks. They were bused to their plane so they could avoid the airport terminal.

This flight Friday afternoon was for the loved ones of people killed Wednesday when Swissair Flight 111 went into the Atlantic off Nova Scotia. Swissair arranged the charter from Kennedy Airport to Halifax for relatives who wanted to be closer to the salvage operation. A second flight departed in the early evening.

``I want to go to the place where they died,″ said Claire Mortimer, whose father and stepmother, John and Hilda Mortimer, perished as they started their annual European vacation. ``I want to be there.″

Most passengers avoided the press. But Ms. Mortimer came out of an airport hotel and spoke to reporters about her father, a retired New York Times executive who celebrated his 75th birthday a few weeks ago.

``He said, `I’d rather have you have a party for me when I’m alive and can be with you than bothering with a funeral after I’m gone,‴ Ms. Mortimer said.

Swissair spokesman Sam Hudstath said there were about 175 people aboard the Airbus A310, including counselors. The Air Nova flight that left a few hours later carried about 75 more people.

Many relatives chose not to accept Swissair’s offer to bring them to the crash scene, including former boxing champion Jake LaMotta, whose son Joe was on the doomed airplane.

``Why bring on the extra grief?″ said LaMotta, 76, who lost his only other son, Jake Jr., in February. ``I’m pretty on in years. I don’t want to face it ’til I have to. ... It’s just too much for me now.″

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