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Remembered as Valiant, Ambitious : PSA Crash Suspect Buried in Hometown

December 20, 1987|Associated Press

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — David Burke, the former airline employee suspected of causing a plane crash that killed 43 people in California Dec. 7, was remembered at his funeral Saturday as a valiant and ambitious man.

About 200 people attended the service at Memorial AME Zion Church. Burke's brother, Allan, said they came to "bury an honorable man."

Burke, who lived in the Rochester area most of his life, is believed to have fired shots aboard Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 1771 that caused the jetliner to crash in San Luis Obispo County.

"I cannot answer all of the questions or entertain all of the suspicions," said Allan Burke, 37, who stood beside his brother's casket and spoke in a cracking voice. "I know we shall weep for him forever. What he would want for us all is to be as ambitious as he was and rejoice . . . and be as valiant as he was."

Burke was buried in Riverside Cemetery.

Investigators believe that Burke, 35, boarded the plane to kill Raymond F. Thomson, a USAir official at Los Angeles International Airport who fired Burke several weeks earlier for allegedly stealing. USAir recently acquired PSA.

Found amid the wreckage was a gun and an air sickness bag bearing a note that experts say was written by Burke warning Thomson.

Burke worked for USAir for 15 years in Rochester and transferred to Los Angeles last year to seek a new challenge, according to friends. He was fired by Thomson for allegedly stealing $69 in proceeds from in-flight liquor sales.

Authorities in Rochester said his name came up during several drug investigations. In 1985, police obtained a search warrant to look at a package Burke had received at the airport, believing it contained cocaine. However, Rochester Police Chief Gordon Urlacher said investigators never had enough evidence against Burke to charge him with any crimes.

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