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Service Members Rescue Crash Victims

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 11, 1997 – Military rescue workers rushed to the scene when Korean Airlines Flight 801 out of Seoul crashed Aug. 5 less than three miles from a U.S. Navy housing area in Agana, Guam.

The Boeing 747 jet carrying 254 people crashed into dense jungle on the Pacific island. Twenty-nine survived. The plane was flying at night about three miles from its destination when it crashed during poor weather.

Naval Forces Marianas sent emergency medical teams and fire fighters to the site. Until Navy bulldozers cleared a path to the plane, the only access was via a one-lane road about a quarter-mile away. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133 provided the heavy equipment. Once on the scene, Navy SEALS and Seabees cut into the plane to remove survivors and victims.

At first, Navy helicopters were the only means of transporting survivors from the dense jungle crash site, a Navy official said. Four CH-46 Sea Knights from Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 5 transported survivors to a triage unit set up at Naval Hospital Guam, where about 250 service members cared for survivors. Doctors, nurses and ambulances from nearby Andersen Air Force Base supplemented the Navy staff.

Military medical specialists also flew in from neighboring bases and the United States. An eight-person emergency medical response team arrived from Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawaii. A four-person surgical team arrived from Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. Two burn teams with 10 people and two critical care teams with six people arrived from Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas.

Guam Air National Guard provided search and rescue specialists, and Guam Army National Guard provided security and traffic control. A team from Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii, helped identify victims. Air Force refueling vehicles serviced the Navy helicopters transporting survivors.

The Korean government asked DoD to help return bodies to Korea. "We've tried to be very responsive to requests for help, and we'll continue to do that," Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said Aug. 7.

About 6,800 sailors and 2,500 Air Force personnel are stationed on Guam. There are about 600 Army National Guardsmen and 200 Air National Guardsmen.

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