Anger and tears as Guam crash families beg to see dead

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The Independent Online
The aftermath of the Korean Air crash took a bitter and grisly turn yesterday, as families of the 200 people killed in the disaster begged in vain for access to the mutilated corpses of their relatives.

Four coachloads of Korean families, 300 of whom arrived from Seoul early yesterday, got their first few of the inaccessible spot where the Boeing 747 crashed on Wednesday carrying 254 people. Some took photographs, many wept helplessly, and others denounced the airline officials and local government officers escorting them. Sixty-nine bodies were recovered from the site on Wednesday, and yesterday 29 of the 35 initial survivors of the crash were alive. But 155 bodies have yet to be accounted for.

In Korea, a Buddhist country, the dead are traditionally accorded elaborate funeral rites. The families in Guam are convinced that technical demands of the investigation are being placed above the wishes of the bereaved. But a US source said the reason was simple: many of the bodies remaining are literally torn to shreds.

According to the one man who was conscious throughout, the disaster came out of nowhere, "like a scene from a film". Hong Hyon Sung, a 36-year- old Korean American who runs a restaurant in Guam, was returning home from visiting his dying father. He was sitting in the first class section, in seat 3B.

"They made the announcement that we would be landing and they told us to sit down and fasten our seat belts. I heard the landing gear go down, and then it hit the mountain.

"Two or three seconds later, we hit the trees. As soon as the plane hit, the lights went out and it was pitch black. I had my seat belt on, so I wasn't thrown, and I unbuckled it. There was a hole directly above me and I started climbing out. Then I felt someone holding my leg. It was a lady, saying, `Please help me.' I pulled her out, and together we walked about a hundred yards.

"I went back to the plane and called out, `Can anyone hear me?' I heard a child screaming, and then there were explosions inside, so I couldn't approach. I think he must have burned.

"The accident was so sudden. Most people must have been just crushed in a sandwich. I think the pilot just flew too low. I don't have dreams yet - I am in a state of shock. But I still hear the screams of children."

Meanwhile, Rika Matsuda, the 11-year-old Japanese girl who was pulled from the burning wreckage by the Governor of Guam, Carl Gutierrez, appeared at a press conference in Guam with the governor yesterday. Rika, who escaped the disaster with minor cuts, bruises and concussions, was recovering quickly, her father Tatsuo said. Rika's mother was believed to have perished in the flames which engulfed the plane.