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Suspend effort to recover bodies of plane crash victims

January 7, 1985 GMT

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) _ Efforts to recover the bodies of the 29 people who perished in the crash of an Eastern Airlines jet have been suspended to avoid endangering the lives of search crews, the U.S. Embassy announced Monday.

Press attache Steve Seche said a U.S. Air Force helicopter would continue trying to reach the wreckage on Illimani Mountain, but its objective would be to retrieve the ″black box″ flight recorder from the Boeing 727 that crashed last Tuesday night. Eight Americans were among the 29 victims aboard the jetliner.

Seche said base camps set up at the foot of the 21,000-foot mountain are being dismantled and the climbers have been instructed to return.

Bernardo Guarachi, a Bolivian mountaineer who reached the crash site on Saturday after a three-day climb, told reporters in La Paz he believed it would take four men six days to retrieve just one body. He said he recommended that recovery efforts by land be suspended until the end of the rainy season in May.

Guarachi said the plane had exploded on impact and there were no survivors.

Eastern flight 980 was en route to La Paz from Asuncion, Paragay, when it crashed into the mountain 25 miles southeast of La Paz.

Three feet of snow have fallen on the mountain slopes since the crash, and only small pieces of the plane’s wing section and fuselage were visible from the air.

The U.S. Embassy, Eastern Airlines and the Bolivian air force had arranged for Guarachi to lead a three-man search term to determine if there were any survivors.

A U.S. Air Force Sikorsky helicopter has been brought in and will try to retrieve the flight recorder this week, according to Eastern Airlines spokesman Feliz Forespieri. He said it is hoped the recorder will reveal why the plane was 13 miles off course when it crashed into the mountain.