Rescuers Scour Wreckage of Guam Jet Disaster

AGANA, Guam -- Rescuers pulled charred bodies Wednesday from the wreckage of a Korean Air jet that crashed in the dense jungle of Guam and plowed through rocky hills in a ball of fire. At least 28 of the 254 people on board survived, some of them able to walk away.


The Boeing 747 from Seoul, South Korea, came to rest in a deep ravine five kilometers from its airport destination on this U.S. island possession in the South Pacific. Seventeen hours later, rescuers said they had found all the survivors.


"We scoured the whole area all day today,'' Air Force Colonel Al Riggle said. "We know there are some bodies still down there, but it's smoldering too hot.''


Flight 801 was carrying mostly Korean tourists, including many families heading to Guam's tropical beaches for vacation, when it crashed in a driving rain just before 2 a.m. local time Wednesday killing more than 220 people. On board were 23 crew members.


Sixty-nine bodies had been recovered from the smoldering wreckage by the time the rescue effort was called off for the night, said Ginger Cruz, a spokeswoman for Guam Governor Carl Gutierrez. She said officials confirmed 30 survivors instead of 35 reported earlier.


Officials later gave differing figures for the number of survivors, ranging between 28 and 30. At least three people pulled alive from the crash died later in the hospital.


The survivors had been seated in the front of the plane, which was largely intact. But the plane's pilot and co-pilot were missing and presumed dead, the airline said.


Governor Gutierrez, one of the first people on the scene, said rain-soaked sawgrass covering the rocks made it so slippery it was impossible to carry survivors more than a few hazardous steps. Hundreds of rescuers had to make their way through mud and the towering, razor-sharp sawgrass.


"It was eerie. As I got close to the scene I could hear the screams,'' he said. "We only had a single flashlight. We had to follow the sounds to find them.''


Among the survivors he pulled from the plane was an 11-year-old Japanese girl, slightly hurt, trying to tend to a critically injured flight attendant.


One South Korean survivor, Hong Hyon-sung, 35, said there was no fire or explosion before the crash.


A woman grabbed his feet as he climbed out of the plane, he told KBS-TV. "I helped her out and we ran away, fearing that the plane may explode.'' The plane, a used Boeing 747-300 delivered to Korean Air in 1984, was trying to land at an airport that lacked both a main landing system and a government-staffed control tower.


A landing system known as the glide slope, which leads planes to the runway, had been out of service at the airport. Such outages are not uncommon, and pilots routinely land with the help of electronic devices that provide locators.


The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team to investigate. The voice and flight-data recorders have been sent to Washington for analysis.


In Seoul, Korean Air began notifying victims' relatives, some of whom collapsed in grief.


About 500 relatives gathered at Kimpo International Airport, awaiting word about loved ones. By the evening, many were frustrated by what they considered the airline's ineffective handling of the crash. About 100 of them staged a sit-down on an eight-lane street in front of a Korean Air building, shouting "Korean Air, you swindlers!''