Prayers for 520 to mark 30th year of JAL crash

Relatives of JAL Flight 123 crash victims looking at a memorial bearing the names of those who were killed in the tragedy, at Ueno village in Gunma prefecture yesterday.
Relatives of JAL Flight 123 crash victims looking at a memorial bearing the names of those who were killed in the tragedy, at Ueno village in Gunma prefecture yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TOKYO • Hundreds of people attended ceremonies yesterday to mark the 30th anniversary of a Japan Airlines (JAL) crash that killed 520 people on board, the deadliest single-aircraft disaster in history.

The doomed Boeing 747 had begun the hour-long flight from Japan's capital to Osaka when it crashed into a mountain about 120km north-west of Tokyo on Aug 12, 1985.

In all, 509 passengers, including a dozen infants, and 15 crew members were killed in the accident. Just four passengers survived.

Bereaved relatives of victims make an annual pilgrimage to Osutaka Ridge, along with JAL president Yoshiharu Ueki, and walked the trail to a memorial service near the crash site.

Some blew soap bubbles to pay tribute to the children who died in the accident, whose names are included on a stone memorial listing the victims. "When I come here, I feel as if I can see her directly - it is like she is in front of me," an 81-year-old man who lost his daughter told local media.

JAL Flight 123 took off from Haneda airport at 6.12pm local time and quickly ran into trouble, with a loud noise heard about 10 minutes into the trip. The crew quickly declared an emergency and fought to regain power over the aircraft.

It crashed into the mountain at 6.56pm local time, about 45 minutes into the flight. It was later determined that the bulkhead had burst, rupturing hydraulic systems and leaving the plane uncontrollable.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2015, with the headline 'Prayers for 520 to mark 30th year of JAL crash'. Print Edition | Subscribe