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Taipei Crash Survivor Leaves Burn Center

Accident: Palmdale's David L. Ralph expected to recover fully. Another survivor to be released this week.

November 21, 2000|IRENE GARCIA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SHERMAN OAKS — David L. Ralph, a survivor of the Singapore Airlines jet crash, was upbeat Monday as he was released from the Grossman Burn Center, where he was treated for second- and third-degree burns on his hands, face and back.

Ralph thanked the hospital staff for treating him like a "king" and briefly recalled the horrifying accident in which 82 people died when the jumbo jet bound for Los Angeles slammed into cranes and other equipment on a runway at Taipei's Chiang Kai-shek International Airport.

Ralph, 54, of Palmdale, had made the trip with his assistant, Christina Reed, to recruit students for the international program at the school he operates in Lancaster. Reed is expected to be released from the Sherman Oaks burn center this week, said Dr. Peter Grossman, who called Ralph a "remarkable man."

"[The burns] are the kinds of things we see quite often but the story, the tragic events of the plane crash and helping others is quite a remarkable story," Grossman said.

Ralph, who had two operations that included the use of synthetic skin, is expected to make a full recovery once he completes occupational therapy to help him regain motion in his hands, Grossman said.

Ralph, wearing a straw hat and dressed in a gray T-shirt and black sweat pants, said he was excited to finally go home and looks forward to returning to work.

Besides running Antelope Valley Christian School in Lancaster, which he founded with his wife, Patricia, 12 years ago, Ralph is a marketing professor at Pepperdine University.

When he was taken to the burn center earlier this month, "I didn't know I had anything left," Ralph said Monday, his wife and daughter, Jeanine, by his side.

He recalled the Oct. 31 accident, as the plane fully accelerated for takeoff, and then hit a crane.

"People started screaming," Ralph said. "That's when I looked down the aisle and saw a fireball. I blacked out and thought it was over."

He regained consciousness and helped other passengers get out of the plane before escaping himself.

Although pilot error caused the accident, Ralph said he is not bitter.

"Can you imagine that poor pilot, what he has to live through now?" Ralph said. "He has to live with what happened and all he made was a simple mistake."

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