Korean Air Survivor - Rika's Miracle

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Rika going back to Japan
The week after -- Rika prepares to leave Guam to Japan. Please also click the picture below.

On Thursday, Aug 7th 1997, 11 year old Rika Matsuda, the girl who was rescued by Governor Carl T.C. Gutierrez, was released from Guam Memorial Hospital. At about 5am, Rika and her father Tatsuo Matsuda were escorted to Government House where they will be house guests for a few days of the Governor and the First Lady. At about 2:50pm Guam time, a press conference took place at Government House between reporters of national and international press, Rika Matsuda, her father, the Governor of Guam and First Lady Geri Gutierrez. This was the first time she has spoken to the press since the tragic crash of Korean Air flight 801 which took the life of her mother. Tatsuo Matsuda wept while holding his daughter's hand. He cried when a reporter asked about his missing wife.

staging area. Click

Rika shared some details of what she experienced right before the place went down. She said that right before the crash, the airplane shook then an announcement over the loudspeaker said "everything will be okay." Although it seemed like everything settled shortly thereafter, the very next thing Rika remembers is climbing over the rubble of wreckage. Rika's mother who was seated adjacent to her near the tail of the jet, was covered with debris and couldn't get out. Because of Rika's size, she was able to slip through her seatbelt and get out. Her mother, Sung Yeo Cho, was pinned by a pile of objects ontop of her arms. According to the Pacific Daily News, her mother directed her daughter to "Escape! Quick! Escape!" as she could see that there was a large fire spreading from the center of the 747 and some debris falling. Rika only remembered trying to get through more smokey plane wreckage which she said was severed into three pieces. Her legs were cut from swordgrass as she walked for an hour. After 2 explosions, she encountered a surviving flight attendant, Yong Ho Lee, on top of Nimitz Hill who was critically injured but quietly pleading for help. After the enervated Rika talked to the attendant, she slept next to the critically injured attendant and then was discovered by her rescuers at about 100 to 140 feet from the blazing inferno, Tatsuo Matsuda indicated. The initial rescuers encountered great difficulty establishing a path to the blazing impact site.

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