Amsterdam crash survivors hold memorial

March 7, 2009 5:59:08 AM PST
Survivors from the Turkish Airlines jet that slammed into a muddy field near Amsterdam's main airport gathered in a hangar Saturday for a memorial service to commemorate the nine passengers and crew killed in the crash. They joined rescue workers and politicians for the nationally televised service at Schiphol Airport.

As they watched in silence, Turkish and American diplomats, politicians and a representative of Dutch Queen Beatrix placed nine cream-colored roses in a vase -- one for each of the five Turks and four Americans killed.

The dead in the Feb. 25 crash included the plane's Turkish pilots and three Boeing employees.

"Today we remember the victims. We express our sympathy to family and friends. Our thoughts also go out to the people in hospital fighting to recover," said Dutch Interior Minister Guusje ter Horst. "It's also a time to be grateful for the fact that so many survived."

Air traffic and trains to and from the airport were to stop for two minutes during the service in a gesture of respect for the victims.

Dutch investigators say flight TK1951 crashed because a false reading from a faulty altimeter caused an autopilot to sharply slow the Boeing 737-800 short of the runway.

The plane was carrying 135 people and dozens managed to scramble out of the wreckage even though the impact cracked the plane's fuselage into three pieces.

One survivor remains in critical condition and 23 more are still recovering in hospital.

After the service, family members were to lay flowers at the site of the crash, where the wreckage was still lying in a field close to a busy highway one kilometer (less than a mile) short of the runway.

U.S. diplomat Michael Gallagher spoke of the sorrow of the relatives of the American victims.

"They were people returning from Turkey to their homes in Seattle and Houston," he said. "Their families were waiting for them to return only to learn the devastating news that they had already bid them their last farewell."

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