TOKYO: Hundreds of people on Wednesday attended ceremonies marking the 30th anniversary of a Japan Airlines jumbo jet crash that killed 520 people on board, the deadliest single-aircraft disaster in history.
The doomed Boeing 747 had begun the hour-long flight from Japan’s capital to Osaka when it crashed into a mountain about 120 kilometers northwest of Tokyo on August 12, 1985. Just four people survived.
Bereaved relatives of victims make the annual pilgrimage to Osutaka Ridge, with JAL president Yoshiharu Ueki scheduled to walk the trail to a memorial service near the crash site.
Ahead of Wednesday’s events, Ueki told local media that “we would like to learn a lesson from this accident without forgetting the memory” of lives lost.
A government-appointed investigation panel blamed the accident on improper repairs on the jet’s rear bulkhead seven years before.
Shortly after take-off on the fateful flight, the bulkhead burst, rupturing hydraulic systems and leaving the plane uncontrollable.
In 1988, local police served papers on 20 people from JAL, the transport ministry and Boeing on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in death and injury.
But prosecutors decided not to indict anyone.
“It can never be forgotten,” Satoshi Iizuka, a former police officer who identified bodies at the site three decades ago, told broadcaster TV Asahi, as he choked back tears.
“Today, people tend to prioritize speed over safety.”
This year’s anniversary comes several days after the hunt for more wreckage from missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 resumed on France’s Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean after being suspended last week.
A wing part was found on the island in late July and confirmed by the Malaysian prime minister to be part of the Boeing 777 that disappeared on March 8, 2014 with 239 people onboard.