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Ventura County

Statue to Honor Jet Crash Victims

A memorial at Port Hueneme Beach Park will be dedicated on the third anniversary of the Alaska Airlines tragedy that claimed 88 lives.

January 27, 2003|Jenifer Ragland | Times Staff Writer

It doesn't get any easier for John and Patty Sanchez to come to Port Hueneme and look out on the ocean at the spot where their daughter died on Alaska Airlines Flight 261 three years ago.

But every year they are drawn. And they always hoped that one day there would be a memorial there -- a structure to mark the significance they felt.

"It's a very important spot for my wife and I," said John Sanchez of Seattle. "To us, that's the burial site."

On Friday, the third anniversary of the crash, the Sanchezes will help dedicate a monument to their daughter, 34-year-old Colleen Whorley, and the 87 others who died when the jet bound from Puerto Vallarta to San Francisco and Seattle plunged into the Pacific Ocean.

On the sand at Port Hueneme Beach Park, family members and friends will listen to the names of their loved ones read aloud as they toss roses onto a bronze sculpture in the shape of a sundial -- set perpetually for 4:22 p.m., the time of the crash.

Designed by Santa Barbara artist Bud Bottoms, the 18-foot-wide statue is adorned with bronze dolphins and mounted on a concrete base bearing the names and birth dates of all 88 crew members and passengers.

In the base is a 4-foot-long steel box holding dozens of letters, toys, cards and other items that were left on the beach by family members and local residents in the days after the crash.

Steve Campbell, the former Port Hueneme police chief who coordinated the memorial project, saved in his garage many of the things from that first makeshift memorial.

"They belonged to the victims or were made for the victims, so family members felt they should be part of the permanent memorial," he said.

The memorial cost about $350,000 to build and was paid for by donations from the community, family members and Alaska Airlines, Campbell said.

Port Hueneme Councilman Murray Rosenbluth said he is glad the city was able to provide the land for the memorial.

"It's a beautiful spot," he said, "a place where families can come to over time and be able to look out over the ocean and remember their loved ones."

About 500 people are expected to attend the dedication service, set to begin at 3:15 p.m. The public is invited.

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