LOS ANGELES (AFP) — A man whose wife and two baby daughters died when a US military jet slammed into his house in California said that he bore no ill will towards the pilot involved in the tragedy.
In harrowing comments to reporters gathered near the charred remains of his family home, Yoon Dong-Yun said he forgave the pilot whose F/A-18 fighter jet ploughed into the building, killing three generations of one family.
Yoon’s mother-in-law was also killed in the accident, which occurred on Monday in the San Diego suburb of University City as the plane attempted to land at the nearby Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar.
Choking back tears, a distraught Yoon said he did not blame the pilot, who ejected safely after failing in desperate attempts to direct his stricken craft away from the densely populated residential neighborhood.
“I don’t want him to suffer from this accident,” Yoon told reporters. “I know he’s one of our treasures for the country. And I don’t blame him, I don’t have any hard feelings. I know he did everything he could.
“I want to thank all the people who are praying for me and my family and all the people who helped to find my family.
“Right now, I don’t know how I feel. But I know there are many people who have experience of terrible things. Please tell me how to do it, because I don’t know what to do.”
Yoon, who was at work at the time of the accident, said he had met his wife four years ago. “She’s just such a lovely wife and mother who always loves me and (our) babies. I miss her so much.”
Earlier Tuesday, the body of Yoon’s 15-month-old daughter was recovered from the crash site. The bodies of Yoon’s wife, identified by local church officials as 36-year-old nurse Yoon Young-Mi, his two-month-old baby and Yoon’s mother-in-law were found on Monday.
Yoon Young-Mi’s mother, Suk Kim, had recently arrived in the United States from South Korea to assist looking after her grandchildren. The two adult victims were South Korean nationals, officials said.
Military officials blamed the crash on an equipment malfunction.
“We don’t know exactly what was the cause of the problem he was having, and … we will be conducting a thorough safety investigation to find that out,” Marine Corps Colonel Chris O’Connor told reporters.
Jason Widmer, a contractor working in the neighborhood at the time of the crash, said the pilot had reported a power failure on board the F/A 18, planes which are renowned for their reliability.
“The first thing he said to me, even before he said, ‘I’m OK,’ he said, ‘I hope I didn’t kill anybody.’ He said he was powerless,” Widmer said. “He said he stayed with the bird as long as he could.”
This video is from CBS’ Early Show, broadcast Dec. 10, 2008.
(with wire reports)