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'All Evidence' in Thai Air Crash Points to Bomb

May 28, 1991|CHARLES P. WALLACE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Questioned about the possible economic consequences for his airline, he replied: "The human tragedy is in the forefront now, and must be dealt with. When that has been done, and the cause of the disaster discovered, we can look at other consequences."

The Boeing jet was only 18 months old, one of two used by the airline on the Hong Kong route. Boeing officials said it was the first crash involving the two-engine airliner, which was introduced in 1982 as a fuel-saving answer to a model of the European-built Airbus.

Seattle-based Boeing is sending a team of investigators to Thailand to examine the crash site.

Lauda Air in Vienna said that 74 passengers and nine crew members were Austrian, the Associated Press reported. The pilot was Thomas Welch, who lived in Vienna but was said to be from Washington state. The other victims were 52 Hong Kong Chinese, 39 Thais, 10 Italians, seven Swiss, six Chinese, four Germans, three each from Yugoslavia, Portugal and Taiwan, two each from the United States, Britain, Hungary and the Philippines and one each from Poland, Turkey, Brazil and Australia.

The identities of the two American passengers were not immediately released.

Among the Thais was the governor of Chiang Mai province, Dr. Pairat Decharin, and his wife.

One of the British passengers was identified as Don MacIntosh, a Bangkok-based field adviser of the U.N. Drug Control Program, AP reported. A program official in Vienna, speaking anonymously, said: "We did not receive--and I am not aware of any threats that he ever received which would suggest he was a target" of a bombing.

Vast amounts of heroin flow through Thailand from the so-called Golden Triangle area where Myanmar, Laos and Thailand meet.

BACKGROUND

Shortly after the outbreak of the Persian Gulf War in mid-January, Western intelligence agencies said there was evidence that Bangkok was an important site for war-related terrorist activity. On Jan. 23, two Iraqis and two Jordanians were arrested in Bangkok in connection with the botched bombing of a U.S. library in Manila, which killed one Iraqi and injured another. The following day, the Los Angeles Times, citing unidentified sources, reported that Bangkok appeared to be a logistics center for Iraqi terrorist attacks in Asia. Authorities in Thailand played down the reports but implemented stricter security measures thereafter. Security at Hong Kong's Kai Tak International Airport, where Sunday's ill-fated Lauda Air flight originated, has always been tight, and authorities there have stepped up security checks since the Gulf War began.

10 Deadliest Acts of Aerial Sabotage

From 1949 to 1989, there were 47 incidents of explosions attributed to sabotage in which passengers or crew on commercial aircraft lost their lives, according to the President's Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism. Here are the 10 worst incidents in terms of lives lost in which an airliner's destruction was attributed to a bomb or hijacking:

1. June 23, 1985: 329 killed when an Air-India Boeing 747 crashed off the coast of Ireland.

2. Dec. 21, 1988: 270 killed when a Pan Am Boeing 747 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland.

3. Sept. 19, 1989: 171 killed when a DC-10 of the French airline UTA crashed into the Sahara in the West African nation of Niger.

4. Oct. 2, 1990: 128 killed when a hijacked Xiamen Airlines 737 crashed at Canton airport in southern China. The jet crashed into two parked planes, one filled with passengers awaiting takeoff.

5. Nov. 29, 1987: 115 killed on a Korean Airlines jet that blew up in mid-flight and crashed into the sea off Myanmar.

6. Sept. 23, 1983: 112 killed when a Gulf Air jet crashed 30 miles from Abu Dhabi, in the Persian Gulf.

7. Nov. 27, 1989: 107 killed in crash of an Avianca flight near Soacha, Colombia.

8. Sept. 8, 1974: 88 killed in a TWA jet that crashed into the Ionian Sea off the coast of Greece.

9. Jan. 1, 1976: 82 killed when a flight of the Lebanese carrier Middle East Airlines crashed in the desert between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

10. June 15, 1972: 81 killed in the crash of a Cathay Pacific Airways jet over the Central Highlands of Vietnam.

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