Grim Work at Guam Crash SiteBy Joseph Coleman
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, August 14, 1997; 9:01 p.m. EDT
AGANA, Guam (AP) -- A maroon seat propped against a pile of rubble. A beige window frame twisted by the impact of a crash. A charred cockpit perched atop a small hill.
Snapshots of passenger and crew comforts were strewn across a ravine and underbrush Thursday outside Guam's capital, where recovery teams in protective plastic yellow suits and long gloves sifted for human remains from the Aug. 6 Korean Air crash.
The work is taking its toll.
``Some people are taking it harder than others,'' said Staff Sgt. Billy Ray of Andersen Air Force Base on Thursday, after laying a green bag with remains onto a stretcher to be taken to a nearby refrigerated truck.
Typhoon Winnie has dumped shower after shower on Guam over the past few days, slowing and sometimes stopping recovery work on the steep hillside.
The Korean Air jet skidded across the top of a hill in Guam and slammed into a ravine with 254 people aboard, erupting in flames. The crash killed 226 people.
The workers, from the Navy, Air Force, local firefighters and other agencies, laid truckloads of rocks and gravel onto the makeshift road built in the hours after the crash to keep it from washing out.
``We had 50 mph winds and the tents were blown down,'' said Rod Rodriguez, operations officer with Commander, Naval Forces, Marianas.
Two large chunks of the plane are still recognizable -- the tail and the front part of the midsection. A large charred section was in bits at the center of the site, and the burned cockpit was on the top of a small hill.
Workers figure they have recovered around 200 of the victims, but the accident was so violent -- and decomposition of the bodies so advanced -- officials say they can't pinpoint a number yet. Only 71 have been identified.
So far, 17 bodies have been returned to Seoul, and officials said that the search for remains could go on for more than a week.
The wait for remains has been excruciating for the families of the victims, most of them South Korean.
A scuffle broke out Thursday at a hotel used as a center for the families when mourners hungry for information saw a Korean Air representative hold a news conference for reporters instead of briefing the families.
```We have to get information from the reporters,'' said Meena Park, of Glendale, California, who lost 11 relatives in the crash. She said two of her relatives have been identified.
Airlines officials agreed after the incident to hold a meeting for the families, who packed am incense-soaked room fitted with an altar with framed photographs of the dead hung above the lit candles.
Also Thursday, Korean Air announced it will suspend night flights to Guam until the cause of the crash is determined.
``The decision was made in order to ameliorate the fears of the South Korean people,'' Korean Air president Cho Yang-ho said.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the accident, said this week that even the most experienced flight crews found night approaches over the hillside to Guam International Airport in bad weather tricky because the rolling hillside can easily be mistaken for clouds.
© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company