Service for Victims of PSA Crash Whose Remains UnidentifiedJOHN ROGERS , Associated Press
Dec. 16, 1987 10:34 PM ET
LOS OSOS, CALIF. LOS OSOS, Calif. (AP) _ More than 100 mourners paid their last respects Wednesday at an outdoor service for 26 people whose remains could not be identified after the crash of Pacific Southwest Airlines' Flight 1771.
''It's a note of finality and I think we need it,'' said Nori Shiba, whose son, Jonathan Kirk Shiba, was one of the 43 victims of the Dec. 7 air disaster believed to be have been caused by a vengeful former USAir employee.
Five caskets were lined up in front with 21 others already in vaults placed behind the lectern at Los Osos Memorial Park. Sam Douglass, the funeral coordinator, said the five symbolized the diversity among the victims.
An airline pilot's cap was placed atop one of the caskets while another was draped with an American flag. An airline stewardess' pin was affixed to another casket while a crucifix and flowers were on the remaining caskets.
''This way the family, by looking at these, can imagine that perhaps their father or mother or son is in one of those five caskets,'' Douglass said.
The 26 caskets will be put in a single plot with one marker bearing the victims' names. Victims of the fiery crash were so severely dismembered that each casket might contain the remains of more than person, officials said.
''We fully suspect there will be more identifications'' when the FBI completes tissue and dental tests, Douglass said.
Most of the mourners were relatives of the victims. They were flown to Paso Robles and brought to the cemetery near Morro Bay, down the coast from the crash site in San Luis Obispo County ranchland, in limousines.
Several mourners wept openly the 30-minute interdenominational service, which began in bitter cold shortly after a light rain. PSA spokeswoman Margery Craig said the service was held outside to accommodate the crowd.
The service was conducted by a Roman Catholic priest, a rabbi and a Protestant minister.
Rabbi A. Manhoff of congregation Beth David in San Luis Obispo urged mourners to use their love for those lost in the tragedy to help get over their sorrow.
After reading a psalm he said, ''Psalms can not make sense out of a senseless deed. If we learn from those whom we love and follow through all the deeds they derived then those we love will live on.'
An honor guard from Vandenberg Air Force Base, present to honor those victims who were veterans, fired a three-gun salute and played ''Taps.''
The service originally was planned for 27 victims, before the remains of William Ira Rosenberg of Oakland were identified Wednesday.
Authorities believe the crash was caused by a David Burke, a former employee of PSA's parent company, USAir, who apparently smuggled a gun aboard the plane to kill the man who fired him, USAir official Raymond Thomson.
The pilot of the BAe 146 reported gunshots in the cabin before the jet plunged from 22,000 feet into a remote hillside north of Cayucos and exploded. Investigators recovered a handgun in the wreckage.
Burke was fired Nov. 19 from USAir for allegedly stealing $69 in beverage receipts. Federal authorities say Burke may have shot Thomson, 48, and then the flight crew. The gun's six rounds were expended.