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Families of JAL Crash Victims Climb Mountain on Anniversary of Disaster

August 12, 1986

TOKYO (AP) _ From dawn to dusk Tuesday, bereaved families climbed a remote mountain to offer prayers and flowers at the spot where a Japan Air Lines jet crashed one year ago in history’s worst single plane accident.

About 200 relatives of victims hiked to the site where 520 died, officials said, while elsewhere friends and relatives commemorated the day both publicly and privately.

″It really has been a long year, (one) with anger and sadness,″ said a man interviewed by the Japan Broadcasting Corp. as he climbed along a log path built up the 5,400-foot ridge after the crash.

The plane, a packed JAL Boeing 747 jumbo jet, went out of control shortly after taking off on a Tokyo to Osaka flight. It wandered for more than 30 minutes until slamminginto a wooded mountain ridge 70 miles northwest of Tokyo. Four people survived the crash.

A final government report on the cause of the accident has not been released, but investigators have said the plane’s rear pressure wall burst after takeoff and irreparably damaged the control systems.

Police in Gunma, the state where the plane crashed, on Tuesday confirmed a report that film had been recovered which showed the inside of the plane’s cabin minutes before the crash.

Police officer Masamitsu Shinagawa said the film was contained in a broken camera found in the wreckage and considered ″valuable as evidence″ of what happened. Kyodo News Service said the photographs showed white misty smoke inside the cabin and stewardesses helping passengers put on oxygen masks.

At 6:56 p.m., the same moment the plane plummeted into the mountain, relatives still atop the ridge bowed in prayer. Japan Broadcasting showed a young woman placing her head against the ground and crying on the dark mountaintop.

After sunset, 520 lanterns were sailed down a river near Ueno village at the foot of the mountain, in memory of the victims.

Official memorial services for the accident were held a week earlier to avoid interference with Japan’s annual Obon holiday, during which families hold reunions to pray for their deceased relatives.

In a hangar at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, top officials of the airline prayed before an altar covered with white chrysanthemums while about 150 maintenance staff in blue uniforms bowed in silence.

About 8,000 Japan Air Lines employees around the world observed a moment of silence.

Earlier Tuesday, Kuniko Miyajima, who lost a 9-year-old son in the crash, filed a complaint by 37 members of 10 bereaved families at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s office against JAL, the plane’s U.S. maker, the Boeing Co., and the Transport Ministry, according to Kyodo.

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