Jiji Press UENO, Gunma (Jiji Press) — Victims of the 1985 crash of a Japan Airlines jumbo jet were remembered on the mountainous disaster site on the 34th anniversary Monday.
Bereaved family members and others followed a steep mountain trail to reach the crash site on the Osutaka ridge in Ueno, Gunma Prefecture. On the crash site, about 1,560 meters above sea level, memorial markers indicate places where remains of the victims were found.
According to JAL, a total of 276 people climbed the ridge on the day.
“Considering my age, this may be my last [climb],” said Shingo Tabuchi, 90, who lost three daughters in the crash.
Tabuchi, from Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, poured water onto their graves. He stressed his determination to come back again “as long as I breathe.”
In the world’s deadliest single-aircraft accident, JAL Flight 123, a Boeing 747 bound for Osaka Prefecture from Tokyo, crashed on Aug. 12, 1985, killing 520 of the 524 passengers and crew members aboard.
A woman in her 50s from Nerima Ward, Tokyo, was a JAL flight attendant at the time of the accident. She said she visits the disaster site every year as she lost her colleagues.
“I won’t forget them, no matter how many years pass by,” she said in a tearful voice.
Akemi Matsuura, 69, from Higashimurayama, Tokyo, laid flowers at the grave of a sister who was very close to her among her siblings. “I just can’t stop coming,” she said.
Matsuura does not think JAL has made enough explanations about the crash.
“Many things remain unclear regarding the cause of the accident,” she said. “I want them to fulfill accountability.”
Over the past year, JAL and other airlines were rocked by scandals in which excessive drinking by pilots and other crew members led to flight departure delays and other problems.
“Do they really understand that the tragedy took away the happiness of all those who perished?” said Kunio Kobayashi, 58, who lost his younger brother-in-law, Hiroyuki Kato. Kobayashi came from Saitama.
JAL President Yuji Akasaka climbed to the crash site and laid flowers at a monument. He expressed deep regrets over his company’s drinking scandal.