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Survivor of Plane Crash Tells Story as Rescuers Recover Last Bodies

December 26, 1995

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Grabbing a quick shave in the airplane lavatory before arrival in Cali, Gonzalo Dussan returned to his seat among his family and settled in for landing.

The next thing he knew, he was lying among the wreckage of American Airlines Flight 965.

His wife and 13-year-old son lay among the 160 corpses scattered around him on the Andean mountainside.

Miraculously, the Somerville, N.J., man heard the voice of his 6-year-old daughter _ one of just three other people to survive the Dec. 20 crash of the holiday homecoming flight from Miami. A small dog also survived.

Workers at Cali’s Hospital Universitario brought the injured father and daughter together for a brief Christmas Day visit, their first since the disaster.

``When I saw her yesterday, I gave thanks to God,″ Dussan said at a news conference Tuesday. ``I tried to be happy with her in order to make believe that nothing wrong happened.″

Recovering from two cracked vertebrae, Dussan wore a neck brace and spoke from a wheelchair. His daughter, Michelle, suffered a broken leg in the crash, 1995′s deadliest.

Dussan remembers nothing of the crash itself, he said.

The cause of the disaster 40 miles from the southwestern city of Cali remains unclear, although reports indicate human error _ not mechanical trouble or sabotage _ was responsible.

Bad weather and the remoteness of the heavily forested ridge where the plane went down hampered the search, but police said Tuesday that authorities had recovered all the bodies.

All but three victims had been identified, said Juan Carlos Osa, a police agent in nearby Buga.

Dussan, 36, lost his wife, Nancy Delgado, 35, and son, Gonzolo Jr.

His daughter’s survival eases his pain, Dussan said.

``I have to live for her and I have to live for everybody who loves me right now,″ he said.

All four survivors were improving Tuesday, the hospital said.

Mercedes Ramirez, 21, was in the intensive care unit and Mauricio Reyes, 19, a business student at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, was in stable condition.

Red Cross officials searching the wreckage found only body parts in some cases.

The Boeing 757 from Miami was 13 miles off course and flying in good weather when it crashed.

Colombian and U.S. technicians at the National Transportation Safety Board laboratory in Washington have inspected two ``black box″ recorders recovered from the wreckage and believe operational error is to blame, The Washington Post has reported. A final determination is still months away.

Autopsies have found no evidence of sabotage, such as shrapnel from a bomb, said Carlos Valdez, spokesman for the prosecutor general’s office in Cali.

Update hourly