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Jet hell Rika's scars will last forever.

The little girl hero of the Guam jet disaster will carry the mental scars for the rest of her life.

Rika Matsuda, 11, faced the world yesterday after her escape from the fireball crash which killed 227 people.

The cuts and burns on her face will soon heal.

But Rika will never stop grieving for her mother Shigeko, 44, who died in the blazing wreckage of the Korean Airlines jumbo.

Rika, comforted by her heartbroken dad Tatsuo, couldn't find the words to describe her ordeal.

She hugged a toy white rabbit throughout the press conference, and said nothing.

Rika was hailed a hero after Tuesday's crash, when rescuers found her tending a dying stewardess in the plane's shattered fuselage.

Tatsuo flew from his native Japan for a tearful reunion with his daughter.

He paid tribute to the rescue workers - especially the man who pulled Rika to safety, Guam governor Carl Gutierrez.

"Thanks to all of you she seems all right now," Tatsuo said. "She is recovering quickly."

Rika clung to Carl and wouldn't let go after her rescue. She was so determined to hold on to him that he had to go with her to hospital.

Carl, whose home on the US-owned Pacific isle is yards from the scene of the crash, dragged four other passengers out of the burning wreck.

He played down his brave rescue effort, saying: "You don't stop to think in a case like that."

Two more survivors died in hospital yesterday, leaving only 27 people alive out of the 254 who were on the plane.

Flight 801 from South Korean capital Seoul hit a hilltop at 186mph as it approached Guam airport.

Passenger Hong Seong, 35, said yesterday: "I didn't notice anything wrong until the wheels of the plane hit the treetops.

"Then, suddenly, two rows of seats in front were tumbling towards me.

"I heard screaming. It was like a scene in a movie - everything was moving and toppling.

"I thought I would die now, here. Images splashed across my mind of my child, my wife, my brother."

Hong suffered a collapsed lung when a luggage rack fell on top of him.

But he managed to crawl out through a hole in the body of the aircraft and drag a woman passenger to safety.

"I am still in shock," he added. "I still hear the screaming children in my mind."

Other survivors claimed the doomed jumbo shook violently before impact.

Hostess Oh Sang-hee, 25, said: "I was worried as the plane was shaking more than usual. I looked outside and saw flames."

She was hurled clear -still strapped into her seat - and escaped with minor burns to her face.

Most of the people on the flight were Korean tourists.

Planeloads of relatives, many in tears, were arriving on Guam yesterday. One woman in black collapsed as she walked through Cus-toms, sobbing: "Everyone died, everyone died."

At the crash site, rescuers were still recovering bodies.

Investigators said it was far too early to speculate about what caused the disaster, but admitted human error was likely.

They played down the fact that Guam airport's glide slope indicator, which tells pilots how close they are to the ground, was turned off for repairs when the jumbo came down.

The plane's black box flight recorders have been sent to Washington to be analysed.
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Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Dowdney, Mark
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 8, 1997
Words:555
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