U.S. officials join effort to determine why airliner crashed

Thursday, April 18, 2002

KIMHAE, South Korea -- U.S. experts interviewed the pilot and inspected the crash site Wednesday where a Chinese airliner carrying 166 people slammed into a mountain in rain and fog, killing 126 people.

Thirty-eight people survived Monday's crash and two are listed as missing.

The U.S. mission, part of a three-nation probe of Monday's crash of the Air China flight near Busan, was requested because the crash involved an American-built Boeing 767-200. China has joined South Korean officials in the investigation of the crash at South Korea's second largest city on the southeast coast.

The U.S. investigators interviewed 31-year-old Wu Xinlu, the hospitalized pilot, before visiting the crash site. Wu suffered severe facial bruises and a minor brain hemorrhage.

Details of that interview were not released, but South Korean officials who spoke with Wu on Tuesday said he told them the plane was functioning normally before it hit the mountain.

South Korean officials have indicated the crash was the result of human error.

The 17-year-old aircraft was approaching Kimhae Airport in heavy rain and fog when it hit the 1,000-foot, forest-covered mountain. Most of the victims were South Korean.

Earlier Wednesday, about 100 South Korean relatives and friends of the victims trekked to the hilly crash site. Carrying flowers and photographs, they offered prayers or dug at the muddy ground.

The U.S. team included two experts from the National Transportation Safety Board and one each from the Federal Aviation Administration, Pratt & Whitney and Boeing.

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