Remembering JAL Flight 123, deadliest single-plane crash in history – and final letters from passengers

Remembering JAL Flight 123, deadliest single-plane crash in history – and final letters from passengers
Mourners trek up mountain to recall 520 who died in JAL crash that took place 30 years ago, in which tail was blown off and passengers had time to write final letters

in Tokyo

A distant photo of Flight 123, taken as it neared disaster, shows almost the entire upright tail section missing. Photo: Wikipedia

It remains the world’s deadliest single-plane air disaster, and one of the most incredible.

Relatives of the victims of Japan Airlines Flight 123 commemorated the 30th anniversary of the tragedy today, climbing to the accident site in the mountains northwest of Tokyo to pray for their loved ones.

Flight 123 was bound for Osaka with 524 passengers and crew aboard on August 12, 1985, when an explosion snapped off almost the entire upright section of its tail.

For 32 minutes, pilot Masami Takahama and first officer Yutaka Sasaki battled valiantly to control the horrifically damaged jumbo jet. Some of those aboard had time to write final messages to their loved ones.

Watch: The crash of JAL Flight 123

Passenger Hirotsugu Kawaguchi, 52, wrote to his children, telling them to “be good to each other” and their mother.

“Dad is very sad but I’m sure I won’t make it . . . the plane is turning around and descending rapidly. I am grateful for the truly happy life I have enjoyed until now,” the seven-page letter said.

Mariko Shirai, 26, captured the horror that would claim her life: “I’m scared. I’m scared. I’m scared. Help. I feel sick. I don’t want to die.”

Mourners release lanterns to honour victims of JAL Flight 123 at Ueno village in Gunma prefecture on Tuesday on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the accident. Photo: AFP

Ultimately, the crippled plane smashed into the Osutaka Ridge in Gunma Prefecture, flipping onto its back. Miraculously, four women survived in spite of a badly bungled rescue operation – it took rescuers 12 hours to arrive at the site of the crash.

Today, relatives climbed the steep mountainside to the site to mourn for the dead at grave markers and a monument located on Osutaka Ridge.

JAL President Yoshiharu Ueki was also scheduled to climb the trail to pay his respects to the victims and pledge aircraft safety.

In the evening, a memorial ceremony will be held at “Irei-no-sono” (Memorial Garden) in the village of Ueno, Gunma Prefecture, at the foot of the mountain, with relatives, villagers and JAL officials attending.

Participants will light 520 candles, one for each victim, and offer silent prayers at 6.56 pm, the time the 747 crashed into the mountain around 40 minutes after taking off from Tokyo’s Haneda airport.

Investigators concluded that a rupture in the plane’s rear pressure bulkhead blew off its vertical stabiliser and destroyed its hydraulics, rendering the aircraft uncontrollable.

In 1987, a Japanese government investigation commission concluded that the accident was caused by improper repairs conducted by Boeing, the maker of the aircraft, on the pressure bulkhead that JAL did not detect in its maintenance checks.

Gunma prefectural police charged 20 people including Boeing employees in 1988 with negligence, but prosecutors declined to seek indictment after Boeing refused to cooperate.

With the year marking the 30th anniversary of the accident, some of the relatives have started to speak out, in the hope that the tragedy will not be forgotten and the importance of transportation safety will be passed on to younger generations.

A group of relatives published a collection of essays this summer written by around 40 people close to the victims, including by a child born after the accident.

In 2006, JAL opened the Safety Promotion Center near Tokyo’s Haneda airport, a museum it positions as “cornerstone of safety” to hand down the lessons from the accident and reconfirm the importance of flight safety.

The centre, open to the public, displays the wreckage of the crashed jumbo jet and items including the collapsed pressure bulkhead, damaged passenger seats and some of the passengers’ notes to their families, written as the plane was in its death throes.

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 August, 2015, 9:05am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 August, 2015, 9:06am

#JAL123   #LettersfromAircrashPassengers

Published by

Robert Chaen

Global CEO-Founder of ChangeU and Movsha Movers & Shakers, Hero-CEO Whisperer, Writer, The #1 Alpha Change Expert, Father of Asian FireWalking Robert Chaen is an International Keynote Speaker, writer, researcher, and corp games designer. He is famously known to be the “Hero-CEO Whisperer”, 1-on1 coaching with many CEOs and Celebrities for corporate strategies, staff & office political issues, personal branding, and even public figure OSHA safety drilling called Drager Defense. He has transformed CEOs and managers in Coca-Cola China, TVB Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airport Services, VADS, TM, Public Bank, Auditor General's Office Maldives, etc. He is the prolific creator and online Author of innovative management tools such as DragonCEO, Diamond Leader, Papillon Personal Effectiveness, OSHA Drager Defense, KPI Bank, etc. He is also the Founder of Movsha, an international networking with monthly mingles with MOVers & SHAkers, Angels, Entrepreneurs, CEOs, Celebrities, HR-PR-CSR, HODs, and the Most Influential IDEA people. ​Chaen is widely considered as one of the top International Platform Keynote Speakers for Resorts World Genting Senior Management Conference (Manila), 7-Eleven HK, Samsung, Coca-Cola China Mini-MBA @Tsing Hua University, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Jockey Club, The Story Conference where he interviewed Datuk Kamarudin (Chairman of AirAsia) and Siti Nurhaliza. He has been widely featured in TVB, AWSJ, CNBC, SCMP, The Star, and Sin Chew. As “The Father of Asian FireWalking”, he coached TVB celebrities (Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin) to walk on 650°C fire; and raised HK$68M in the world’s 1st and only live TV Charity FireWalk (TVB Tung Wah Charity Show), before Tony Robbins even came to Asia. If Robert can get you to walk on 650⁰C fire, he can inspire you to be THE BEST. He champions CN-HK-EU-US Tycoons to be philanthropic, and to be angel investors to support the next generation of Jack Mas, Steve Jobs, Richard Bransons, Steven Spielbergs, or Barrack Obamas. With some slick motivational speakers with fake doctorates out there, graduates often describe Robert to be "the most credible, empowering, truthful Coach" who believe in his graduates to believe in themselves. ​However, clients have described Robert as "The #1 Cool Badass Alpha Change Expert". He has the coolest first class stature, rapport and trust from clients. He will not hesitate to tell the badass truth ever so gently because clients are paying him big bucks to reveal the truth, find solutions, persuade the hostile HODs, and align cross-teams within the organization. Originally based in Hong Kong for 20+ years, he had worked with top Branding/Ad agencies at J Walter Thompson and Leo Burnett, and was a certified FranklinCovey (7 Habits) in USA, and NLP MasterCoach (USA). His warmth is known to soften the most hardened, resistant sceptics. He will inspire your team to Go for Top 1, or to be a Dragon CEO. With boundless energies, Robert owns 15+ successful business Joint-Ventures, and created unique products under his global VC network called Chaen's Angels VC. He is deeply passionate about ChangeUTH Youth CSR, Science-Based Medicine (vs. quackery), short films and Reality TV. Touched by a personal tragedy through the loss of his HK-born Portuguese wife, co-coach and business partner, Brenda José of 18 years, Robert explores the many ways in which the spirit world is communicating with the living with real scientific studies and evidence. He gives inspiring conferences on The Secret Afterlife.

One thought on “Remembering JAL Flight 123, deadliest single-plane crash in history – and final letters from passengers”

  1. It remains the world rsquo;s deadliest single-plane air disaster, and one of the most incredible. It remains the world’s deadliest single-plane air disaster, and one of the most incredible.


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