MAEBASHI, Gunma Pref. – Relatives commemorated Thursday the 36th anniversary of the Japan Airlines crash that claimed the lives of 520 crew and passengers in the world's deadliest single-aircraft accident.
Members of bereaved families climbed the steep mountain trail to the Boeing 747's crash site on Osutaka Ridge in Gunma Prefecture. Participants were restricted mostly to kin for the second year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Shortly before 7 a.m., the bereaved family members, many of whom were elderly, started walking toward the ridge.
"It is physically demanding. Though every year I think this will be the last time, I want to come as long as I can walk," said Kimiko Yoshida, 87, who lost her 24-year-old daughter Yumiko.
The trail was damaged by a typhoon in 2019 and is currently closed to general climbers as restoration work progresses. Local authorities temporarily suspended the work to allow access to the crash site for bereaved families.
In the evening, a memorial ceremony will be held in the village of Ueno at the foot of the mountain ridge, with a moment of silence to be observed at 6:56 p.m., the time of the crash.
Only a limited number of people including officials of Japan Airlines Co. will attend the ceremony. Relatives will be able to watch a livestream on the village website.
On Aug. 12, 1985, a packed JAL flight 123 en route from Tokyo to Osaka crashed about 40 minutes after take-off.
The crash claimed the lives of all but four of the 524 crew and passengers on board, many of whom were on their way home to see their families during Japan's Bon summer holiday season.
In 1987, a Japanese government investigation commission concluded that the accident was caused by improper repairs conducted by Boeing Co. on the plane's rear pressure bulkhead, whose rupture blew off the craft's vertical stabilizer and destroyed its hydraulic systems.
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