5 Bodies Found In S. African Jet Crash

Posted: November 30, 1987

JOHANNESBURG — Search teams yesterday pulled five bodies from the Indian Ocean where a South African Airways Boeing jumbo jet crashed with 159 people aboard, including one American. None of the passengers or crew was believed to have survived.

Philadelphia native William G. Murlless, senior vice president of Cigna Investment Advisory Co. Inc., was aboard the plane en route to South Africa on a business trip, a Cigna Corp. spokesman said yesterday.

Rick Goulart, a spokesman for the firm based in Hartford, Conn., said Murlless was headed to Johannesburg to counsel a corporate client on investment in South Africa.

Rough seas yesterday forced authorities to suspend the search for the plane, but they said it would resume today.

The plane, apparently on fire, crashed early Saturday as it approached the island nation of Mauritius for a refueling stop en route from Taiwan to Johannesburg.

It was the world's worst air tragedy this year and the worst in South African aviation history.

The five bodies recovered yesterday were not identified. Two were men, two were women and the search crew could not determine the sex of the fifth, airport officials on Mauritius said.

The airline listed those aboard Flight SA295 as 71 South Africans, including 19 crew members; 47 Japanese; 30 Taiwanese; two Australians; two Mauritians; two from Hong Kong, and several Europeans.

Airline officials said late Saturday that a baby carried onto the plane had not been on the passenger list, raising the number aboard to 160. But Cecile Taljaard, a spokeswoman for South African Airways, said yesterday that the baby had been listed and the total aboard was 159.

Officials would not speculate on the cause of the crash of the Boeing 747-200B "Combi," a jumbo jet designed to carry both passengers and cargo. Contact with the plane was lost 10 minutes before the scheduled landing, after the pilot, Capt. Dawie Uys, 49, radioed to the control tower: "There is smoke coming into the cabin. I think we have a fire."

South African Airways spokesman Nico Venter denied a report that the plane was delayed in Taiwan because of a bomb threat. It was delayed one hour

because of weather and to accommodate passengers from other flights making connections, he said.

Ships from France, Mauritius, Taiwan and Japan took part yesterday in the search. Spotter planes also joined the operation. The South African air force said it would send two helicopters today to join the hunt, which was centered 100 miles northeast of Mauritius.

Venter said that a life raft and inflatable dinghy were found, but that all aboard were presumed to have died. "Efforts are now concentrated on locating the black box" or flight data recorder, he said. The black box will send a signal for about 30 days, said Venter.

Cigna spokesman Goulart said Murlless, 45, lived with his wife, Janet, and younger son in Tokyo, where his firm is based. An older son attends college in the United States, he said. The firm is a subsidiary of Cigna's Investment Group.

Murlless joined the Insurance Co. of North America (INA), headquartered in Philadelphia, in 1972, the spokesman said. In 1982, INA merged with Connecticut General Corp. to form Cigna. Murlless continued with Cigna in Philadelphia until 1985, when he moved with his family to Tokyo.

Tinus Jacobs, the airline's office manager in Taipei, the Taiwanese capital, said South African Airways was offering transportation and accommodation for relatives of passengers who wanted to travel to Mauritius this week. He made the offer after relatives gathered at his office asking to be taken to Mauritius immediately.

"I wish I was there now," said Lu Ju-kuei, one of those at the office. Her 26-year-old daughter was on the flight with a tour group heading to South Africa for a 15-day visit. "I believe she's still alive, and they can't stop searching."

Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize and a leader in the anti-apartheid movement, appealed for prayers on behalf of

families of those killed.

Mauritius is an island chain 2,200 miles northeast of Johannesburg and about 500 miles east of Madagascar, a larger island nation east of southern Africa.

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