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Grandfather Identifies Girl As Sole Survivor Of Jet Crash With PM-Plane Crash, Bjt

August 18, 1987 GMT

DETROIT (AP) _ A chipped tooth and purple polish on little fingernails hepled an anxious grandfather identify the critically burned 4-year-old girl who was the only passenger to survive the Northwest Airlines jet crash.

Cecilia Cichan of Tempe, Ariz., was listed in critical but stable condition early today at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in nearby Ann Arbor.

She was identified Monday night by her grandfather, Anthony Cichan, 59, of Maple Glen, Pa., officials said. Her parents and 6-year-old brother were killed Sunday in the nation’s second-worst air disaster.


″One good thing has to come of this horrible, horrible day,″ said Cichan’s wife, Margaret.

Northwest officials told the couple earlier Monday that their son, Michael, 32; daughter-in-law, Paula, 33; and grandson David were among the victims when Flight 255 crashed shortly after takeoff from Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

Because the airline failed to list Cecilia, and because of news reports that a young girl was hospitalized after the crash, Cichan became certain his granddaughter survived, Mrs. Cichan said.

″We keep telling him, ’Tony, it may not be Celia. You have your hopes up so high,‴ she said, using the girl’s nickname.

Cichan flew to Detroit after hospital officials said his description of Cecilia matched that of the unconscious girl. He identified her after seeing her chipped tooth and nail polish, said hospital spokeswoman Catherine Cureton.

Cichan said Cecilia was found in her mother’s arms. ″Her mother shielded her, and that is what saved her,″ Cichan said.

A rescue worker at the scene said the whimpering child was pulled from beneath the body of a woman. ″Her survival was due to being padded by her mother, at least we assume it was her mother,″ said paramedic Pam Davidson.

Dr. John Giradot, another rescuer, said: ″It looked hopeless. But we were amazed when we found her that anybody could live through this.″

″We heard her cry,″ he said. ″Then we dug through the luggage, unbuckled her seat belt and stabilized her.″

Cecilia suffered third-degree burns over 29 percent of her body in the fiery crash, along with a broken leg, broken collarbone and facial cuts, the hospital said.

Cichan, joined by two other relatives, arrived at Cecilia’s bedside about Monday night, said Cureton. She didn’t know the other two men’s names.

″They were just certain on sight as they looked at her″ that the unconscious girl, breathing with the aid of a respirator, was Cecilia, Cureton said. She added that the delay in identifying the girl came in part because Northwest had refused to release a passenger list.

Michael Cichan, a professor of botany at Arizona State University, and his family were flying back to Arizona after visiting the elder Cichans and Paula Cichan’s parents, Anthony and Pauline Ciamaichela of Warminster, Pa.

″The only thing Paula said was they had a nice 747 from Philadelphia to Detroit, and then ... a smaller flight to Arizona, and she said, ’I really don’t like those small planes,‴ Mrs. Cichan said.

Cecilia’s survival gave her grandmother only partial comfort.

″Just talking to you is so draining,″ Mrs. Cichan told a reporter. ″But they were a tremendous family. They were your model family.″

″And I want them to know how great they were,″ she said. ″And I still can’t believe it.″