Remembering Flight 261

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A year after Alaska Airlines Flight 261 plunged into the sea, killing 88 people, friends and relatives remembered the victims with a visit to the spot where the jet went down.

Matthew Manning and his brother Peter, both of Seattle, visited the site eight miles offshore where their sister, brother-in-law and two nieces died on Jan. 31, 2000.

"We came just to remember," Matthew Manning said. "It's putting closure to it. It's tough to put into words. There's been tears for a year."

A service to bury a casket with remains the coroner could not identify was held Tuesday evening. The granite grave marker reads: "To the spirits of the 88 lost. We celebrate their lives and remember them with love."

The service concluded with the release of 88 doves that briefly circled the grave, then flew away. Mourners scattered dirt and flowers over the coffin as it was lowered into a burial vault inscribed with the words, "We Will Always Remember You, Alaska Air Flight 261."

The visits will continue Wednesday for about 750 relatives and friends. Alaska Airlines paid hotel, transportation and food costs as well as expenses for the burial.

Earlier Tuesday, groups went to a warehouse at the Point Mugu Naval Air Station to see recovered bits of the plane, arranged nose-to-tail like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

Anarudh Prasad of Seattle, whose brother was killed, said his mother fainted at the site of the debris.

"I guess we just kind of have to go on and help our parents get through this," Prasad said later.

More than 140 people were scheduled to board 43 boats over two days for the journey to the crash site. Many canceled at the last minute.

"It's been an emotional couple of days for them," said Peter Teahen, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, funeral director who helped organize Oklahoma City bombing memorials. The friends and relatives saw a 40-foot collage of photos of the victims and "it had such an impact, many canceled the boat trip."

The twin-engine MD-83 was on its way to San Francisco and then Seattle when it started pitching, then spiraled from nearly 18,000 feet into the sea. The jackscrew, a key part of the horizontal stabilizer, is suspected of causing the crash. Threads on the recovered jackscrew were stripped.

Earlene Shaw, whose husband of 16 years died in the crash, said the ocean visit was very emotional.

"It was like you could visualize it happening," she said. "It feels like I could get a little closer."