AGANA, Guam — The terrain where a Korean Air jumbo jet crashed and burned today is so rugged and choked with tropical vegetation that it took rescuers four hours to get survivors to a hospital only a mile away.
The rain-soaked saw grass covering rocks made it so slippery it was impossible to pick up and carry anyone more than a few hazardous steps, said Gov. Carl Gutierrez at the scene.
The plane with 254 people on board went down in an early morning downpour, skidding through the jungle in a ball of fire before coming to rest in a deep ravine carved by the Sasa River.
Navy CH-46 "Sea Knight" helicopters hovered to light up the site as hundreds of military and government rescuers walked gingerly down a steep slope to search the smoldering wreckage. The helicopters were then used to hoist survivors to safety.
Navy Seabee construction crews used a bulldozer to carve a makeshift road into the site so backhoes could be moved in to tear open unburned parts of the wreckage to check for possible survivors. By dawn, about 200 rescuers and medical personnel were at the crash site, with another 300 personnel supporting the operation from other locations, Gutierrez said.
As dawn broke, a crowd of onlookers gathered along a narrow road that provided the closest ground access to the scene.