KAL Crash, 1997

In August 1997, KAL Flight 801 crashed 3 miles short of the airport in Guam, where it dove straight into a hill located at the bottom of a deep valley. During the crash, the plane broke a large ground fuel line, which contributed to the difficulty of the rescue operations. In addition, the valley had a creek running through it that became dammed up by the plane’s fuselage, causing mid-calf-deep mud in the search area. One week later after the crash, three canine teams and one search team manager were sent from WATF-1 to search for human remains. The three teams, who were also all members of Northwest Disaster Search Dogs, were Bruce Speer and Hunter, Marcia Koenig and Coyote, and myself and Sunny.

Once on the ground, we encountered numerous obstacles in our search efforts, such as poisonous toads, poisonous snakes, 6’ tall saw grass (which was appropriately named), deep mud, and very high heat and humidity. Although we worked in shifts early in the morning and late in the evening, two of the canines were treated for heat-related problems and dehydration. While one of the canines was working in the mud, it came into contact with hydraulic fluid and was treated for first-degree burns to its paws. Although the search conditions were quite difficult for both canine and handler, the canines were successful in helping to find small pieces of human remains, thus allowing family members to have some type of closure from this tragedy.


Written by La Fond Davis