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Families of ValuJet Crash Victims Gather for Memorial Service

July 31, 1996

MIAMI (AP) _ More than 300 mourners gathered in the Everglades sawgrass Tuesday to remember the 110 people who died when ValuJet Flight 592 nosedived into the chest-high water.

The private prayer service at the site of the May 11 crash came on the eve of a funeral for the 50 victims whose remains have not been identified, and a burial, using 50 caskets, in a common grave.

Dade County provided tight security for the service. Shirley Dailey, whose cousin’s husband died on the flight, was turned away because she drove rather than riding in one of eight buses chartered by ValuJet.

Her relative, 51-year-old Charles ``Jerry″ Fluitt Sr., was not identified by the medical examiner.

``It looks like his spirit’s out here instead of in a grave where I believe it should be,″ said Dailey, 51, of Liberty City.

``I’m just sad and hurt. Just sad,″ she said, her voice trembling. ``All the people who lost their lives unnecessarily when it all I believe could have been avoided if they wouldn’t have had that kind of chemical on the plane.″

Investigators are looking into whether oxygen canisters being shipped in the DC-9′s cargo hold ignited the fire that caused the airplane to crash shortly after taking off from Miami International Airport.

Other family members didn’t talk to reporters as they boarded the buses outside a Miami hotel. Some carried flowers and stuffed animals. One woman carried a framed picture; another had a single red rose.

At the service site, about 500 feet west of where the airplane went down, some mourners scattered flowers in the water; others held hands.

A funeral open to the public was planned for Wednesday at Woodlawn Park Cemetery South, 22 miles south of where the jetliner went down.

The medical examiner has identified 60 of the victims, and will continue trying to identify remains using photographs and notes.

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