KIGALI, RWANDA, DEC. 5 -- A group of Americans killed in a plane crash while returning from a safari to photograph rare mountain gorillas will be buried near the remote site where their plane went down, the U.S. Embassy said today.
"We have obtained the permission of the relatives of the dead to bury them locally," said an embassy spokeswoman in this tiny, landlocked East African country. She said all 12 Americans killed in the crash, most of whom were part of a tour group, would be buried in a plot near the crash site.
"The State Department told us that the Rwandan government said there was not enough left of the bodies to send anything back," said Gene White, spokesman for Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Amarillo, where several of those killed in the crash worked. "The explosion and fire of the crash left nothing, so they just suggested marking the graves over there."
Eleven of the victims were tourists, including three doctors, a nurse, a hospital administrative assistant and a medical photographer who were part of a group from Amarillo. The doctors were faculty members at the Amarillo medical school.
Their chartered, twin-propeller Cessna 404 crashed Thursday in a mountainous area of Rwanda 45 miles from the capital, Kigali, killing all 12 passengers and the Kenyan pilot. Embassy officials initially thought a Zairean passenger also was aboard the plane, but said only 13 bodies were found.
There were no clues today to the cause of the crash, but Rwandan radio reports suggested the aircraft may have lost altitude and hit a tree. Other unofficial reports said engine failure may have been responsible, but there was no word from investigation teams at the site.
The embassy spokeswoman said U.S. officials traveled from Kigali to search for a suitable plot for the remains of the dead in the Rwandan town of Giseny, close to the Zairean border.
The embassy said the plot would not be in a public cemetery but would be specially prepared and a proper burial service would be held.