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Services for 27 Unidentified in Air Crash Held

December 17, 1987|Associated Press

LOS OSOS, Calif. — Rain fell as burial vaults were readied on a cemetery lawn Wednesday for a service for 27 people whose remains could not be identified after the Dec. 7 crash of Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 1771.

The late-afternoon service at Los Osos Valley Memorial Park was scheduled outdoors, but a chapel was available if the storm did not let up, said cemetery president Millard Coddington.

Authorities believe the crash was caused by David Burke, a former employee of PSA's parent company, USAir, who apparently smuggled a weapon aboard the plane to kill the man who fired him, USAir official Raymond Thomson.

PSA arranged transportation for mourners traveling to the cemetery near Morro Bay, down the coast from the crash site in San Luis Obispo County ranchland, where a total of 43 passengers and crew members died.

Twenty-one caskets were placed in vaults before the service. The rest were to be encased later, and the vaults buried in a plot marked by a tablet bearing all the victims' names. Individual vaults will be identified by survey markers.

PSA also held a memorial for the victims at its San Diego headquarters on Friday.

The pilot of the four-engine BAe 146 reported gunshots in the cabin before the plane plunged from 22,000 feet into a rural hillside north of Cayucos. The aircraft disintegrated, but federal investigators recovered a handgun and a note apparently written by Burke to Thomson.

16 Victims Identified

Authorities managed to identify the remains of only 16 of the victims.

The service originally was planned for 28 victims, but on Tuesday forensic experts identified the remains of Jocelyn G. Kempe, 56, of Ojai, a senior public affairs representative for Chevron USA Inc.

Burke was fired Nov. 19 from USAir after he was caught allegedly stealing $69 in liquor receipts. He is believed to have boarded the flight with a handgun borrowed from a friend, skirting the airline security check.

Federal authorities say Burke may have shot Thomson, 48, and then the flight crew. All six of the gun's rounds had been fired.

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