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Avianca Pilot Mourned While Investigators Leave NY

February 1, 1990

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. (AP) _ The pilot of Avianca Flight 52 was eulogized at a small, simple funeral Mass on Wednesday while federal investigators returned to Washington to continue their probe.

Twenty people, including relatives, co-workers and friends, sat silently inside St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church as Associate Pastor Rev. Jeffrey Johnston remembered Laureano Caviedes Hoyos.

The mourners, who took up only three pews, listened intently as Johnston offered comfort, saying, ″One who spent so much of his time in his life among the stars, now rests beyond them.″

″Flight 52 didn’t come down alone and unguided,″ the priest added. ″While human voices fell silent another voice, a divine one, spoke, saying ’Don’t be afraid. I’m here.‴

Caviedes, 56, was an Avianca pilot for 28 years. He is survived by his wife and two sons, ages 13 and 14, who live in Bogota, Colombia.

Following the service, Caviedes’ body was taken by police escort to Kennedy Airport. It is to be returned to Colombia on Thursday for burial.

Caviedes was among the 73 people killed and 85 others injured Jan. 25 when the Boeing 707 he was flying apparently ran out of fuel and crashed in the small enclave of Cove Neck on Long Island.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators have not yet said who or what was to blame for the crash.

Caviedes, who was flying into Kennedy under heavy fog and rain, radioed controllers that he needed ″priority″ landing because he was low on fuel, but never used the word emergency, investigators said.

As a result, Flight 52 was switched from a holding pattern to an approach pattern, but was placed behind several other incoming planes.

″The pilot apparently thought when he came out of the holding pattern that he had enough fuel and that’s why he appears (on taped conversations) to be calm and cool,″ said NTSB investigator Barry Trotter, who is handling the crash probe.

NTSB investigators wrapped up their on-site probe on Tuesday and gave Avianca permission to remove the twisted wreckage from the cordoned-off crash site.

Trotter left New York for Washington on Wednesday, accompanied by aides who were hand-carrying fuel gauges taken from the cockpit.

Trotter said they planned to dissect the gauges over the next several weeks to see if they were accurate. They also planned to review the tapes from the cockpit voice recorder.

″We have gathered much of the facts, now we’ve got to sit down and analyze to determine exactly what happened that night,″ Trotter said as he was leaving a Long Island hotel. ″There’s no simple answer.″

NTSB investigators also plan to fly to Bogota next week to review the plane’s maintenance records and probe the employment record and personal habits of Flight 52′s crew, including what each Avianca employee did the night before the fatal crash, Trotter said.

In coming months, investigators will recreate Flight 52 down to the most minute detail to try and determine what caused the crash. A full report is expected to be completed in nine to 12 months.

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