UENO, Gunma Pref. – Relatives of the people killed in the Japan Airlines jumbo jet crash in 1985 floated paper lanterns on a river near the crash site in Gunma Prefecture to mourn their loved ones Thursday night, on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the worst single-aircraft disaster in aviation history.
The crash on Osutaka Ridge killed all but four of the 524 passengers and crew members aboard the Boeing 747 bound for Osaka from Tokyo.
Accompanied by accordion music played by local amateur musicians, the relatives lit 300 lanterns with colorful pictures and messages on them, including, “May the souls rest in peace,” and floated them on the Kanna River at around 6:56 p.m., the time of the crash.
On the banks, 520 small lanterns were placed, each bearing the name of a victim.
Risako Uchino, who lost her 54-year-old father in the crash, took part in the ceremony for the first time with her husband and their 16-year-old son.
The 45-year-old school employee from Kawasaki transcribed a poem she wrote in 2000 onto a lantern, saying she hoped her late father would watch her from Osutaka Ridge as she tries to do her best in life.
“My father died in the year I was going to marry and he had bought me a wedding dress,” Uchino said. “As I watch my children grow, I feel how many years have passed, but my heart has not changed from the time I wrote the poem.”
She said she will climb Osutaka Ridge on Friday in the belief that her father is sleeping there, because his body was not found and there is only soil in his urn.
A government investigation commission blamed the accident on improper repairs conducted by Boeing Co. on the plane’s rear pressure bulkhead, which JAL could not detect in subsequent maintenance.
An association of next of kin submitted a written request Thursday to JAL, urging the carrier to build a facility to publicly display wreckage of the plane that has been kept at Haneda and Narita airports.
JAL uses the wreckage kept at Haneda — the ruptured bulkhead, believed to have been the direct cause of the accident, the cockpit voice recorder and the digital flight data recorder — as materials for safety training sessions for employees.
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