By the time the ninth and final airlift flight from Guyana landed at Dover Air Force Base about 3 a.m. yesterday, 912 bodies from the Nov. 18 mass suicide and murder were stacked around the military installation awaiting identification.
Near the end, the teams packing the plastic-bagged remains in South America ran out of aluminum body carriers. The last flight, with 183 bodies aboard, included several blue-and-brown metal caskets. The 82 containers, some containing two or three bodies, were placed four high on the plane for easier unloading bond together in dozens.
As the airlift to Delaware ended, Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina was preparing to receive approximately 80 Peoples Temple members who survived the incidents in Guyana. Their arrival time was not definite.
Nearly 40 federal officials were Charleston yesterday, among them 30 FBI investigators who will interview the survivors for possible involvement in the slayings of Rep. Leo J. Ryan (D-Calif.) and four others at the Port Kaituma airstrip Nov. 18. That incident preceded the mass suicides at Jonestown.
FBI spokesman Charles Devic said the agents will investigate under a law making it a federal crime to kill a member of Congress. Devic said the probe will extend to temple members in the United States.
If the survivors are not believed to be involved in the "murder or conspiracy to murder," they will pass on to nine Department of Health, Education and Welfare officials detailed here from the Atlanta regional office.
he HEW officials, three of them doctors, will give physical examinations and issue airline tickets and up to [WORD ILLEGIBLE] in emergency cash to get the temple members to their homes, a department spokesman said. The assistance will be loaned and must be repaid, he said.
At Dover, the Defense Department, which is primarily responsible for shipment and identification of the bodies, yesterday augmented the mortuary staff of nearly 60 with 35 pathologists from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and 29 graves registration experts from Fort Lee.
It could take a month for the workers to fingerprint and identify the bodies before they are released to relatives, according to Maj. Brigham Shuler, a Pentagon spokesman.
The presence of the remains, which are loaded on freight trailers parked in empty hangars or stored in refrigerated vans until they are sent to the mortuary for processing by volunteers, has raised concern among some Dover residents about the potential for spread of disease.
A Delaware public health official yesterday inspected the mortuary, one of the two largest such facilities on U.S. military bases, and "gave it a clean bill of health," according to Shuler.
With the airlift completed, the base shut down its reception center for victims' relatives, only a few of whom had come to Dover. Survivors were urged to contact the State Department for information about relatives.