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Family, friends recall TWA Flight 800 explosion

Mark L. Berry and Margaret Krick hold carnations

Mark L. Berry and Margaret Krick hold carnations as they honor their loved ones at a memorial honoring the victims of TWA Flight 800, on the 19th anniversary of the flight's explosion, Friday, July 19, 2015, at Smith Point County Park. Berry, a former TWA pilot, lost his fiancee Susan Jensen, who was a passenger aboard the flight, while Krick lost her son, flight engineer Oliver "Ollie" Krick. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Margaret Krick ran her fingers over the block of black granite in Shirley that held her son's name.

Earlier she had said, "I just feel I have to be here with him."

Krick was one of 150 family members and friends who gathered in Shirley on Friday to read the names of the 230 victims of the crash of TWA Flight 800 in an annual ritual of pain and catharsis.

The Paris-bound Boeing 747-100 exploded 12 minutes after taking off from Kennedy Airport on July 17, 1996, plunging into the ocean off East Moriches and killing all aboard.

The ceremony at Smith Point County Park, near where the wreckage from the explosion over the Atlantic Ocean once burned, drew some who had attended most of the previous commemorations.

Krick's son, Oliver Krick, 25, had been a flight engineer on the doomed jetliner.

He had celebrated a birthday three days before the flight, was engaged to be married and had planned to take a military leave soon to serve in the Air National Guard, she said.

"Ollie died with the three things he loved the most: people, the water and his airplane," Krick said.

A four-year investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board ruled that the cause of the crash was an accidental fuel tank explosion.

Ken Forte, 63, of Lynbrook, a former flight attendant for Trans World Airlines, knew many of the crew members aboard the plane.

"It's like stirring the pot -- everything from the bottom comes back up again," he said.

Forte, who now works for American Airlines, seemed to have a story about everyone -- like his fellow flight attendant James Robert Hull, a '60s throwback who spoke four languages and liked to start his sentences with "far out." "These guys are good people," he said.

Shortly after 8 p.m. Friday, the names of the victims were read at a black granite and garden memorial at the park, on the east end of Fire Island -- the closest shore point to the crash.

Frank Lombardi, a board member of the TWA Flight 800 Families Association, said the evening's readings were dedicated to "the entire TWA Flight 800 family."

"For family is a place in the heart," he said at the ceremony. "This memorial holds a place in all of our hearts."

The reading of the names was finished at 8:16, and Lombardi closed out the ceremony.

Some of the 150 at the event carried white carnations, tossing them in the ocean at 8:31 p.m. -- when the crash occurred 19 summers ago. "It's almost like saying goodbye again," said Mark L. Berry, whose fiancee Susanne Jensen, 31, was a passenger.

Berry, 49, of Irving, Texas, who has written a memoir to help him cope with his grief, yesterday threw the white carnation into the water "as hard as I could." "It's symbolically like putting dirt on the grave," he said. "An ocean grave."

With Gary Dymski

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