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Passengers Beaten, Sprayed With Mace : Jet Takeover Was Brutal, Freed Stewardesses Say

Times Staff Writer

The hijackers aboard a Trans World Airlines jet “brutally beat” two Marines, sprayed passengers with the chemical weapon Mace, held a gun against the head of a stewardess and forced her to pick up the pin of a hand grenade and place it in the mouth of one of the terrorists who threatened to blow up the plane, returning crew members said Sunday.

The hijackers ordered Uli Derickson of Newton, N.J., a flight attendant aboard Flight 847, to collect passports from the 145 passengers and turn over to the terrorists those bearing Jewish-sounding names. Instead, Derickson said, she handed the terrorists all of the passports, and the hijackers eventually selected six or seven passengers they believed to be Jewish and led them from the plane in Beirut. Late Sunday, David Venz, a spokesman for TWA, confirmed that seven people were removed in Beirut and taken to an unknown location.

Four members of the flight crew who held a news conference at Kennedy International Airport in New York said there were 12 hijackers aboard the red-and-white Boeing 727 jet. They were armed with .357-magnum revolvers and submachine guns with silencers. One of the hijackers bragged to a stewardess that his weapon was a late model--"the fastest machine gun in the world.”

“The initial takeover was rather brutal,” asserted Derickson, who said she persuaded the hijackers to untie three passengers.

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“They treated me pretty rough.”

She said the first two hijackers emerged from a restroom while the plane was in midair and karate-chopped her and held a gun against her head, forcing her to open the door to the cockpit.

They then singled out four U.S. Marines and a U.S. construction worker with an official American passport who was doing work for the Navy. Two of the Marines were “brutally beaten,” Derickson said.

All of the stewardesses said that the worst moment came when they heard a shot and realized that one of the Marines who had been beaten was killed. His body was then dumped from the plane in Beirut, they said.

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The U.S. Marine Corps will neither confirm nor deny whether any Marines were aboard the plane.

In what was the most complete account so far of events aboard Flight 847, the stewardesses described periods of sheer terror alternating with periods of calm.

“There were times we did not think we would get out of the plane alive,” said Hazel Hesp, a flight attendant from Greenwich, Conn. “We had to make an emergency landing (in Beirut).” Hesp said there were objects barring all the plane’s doors and it would have been impossible to evacuate the passengers had a fire occurred.

In calmer moments, the stewardesses managed to discuss political philosophy with their captors. What quickly emerged in the aircraft’s crowded cabin was deep hatred of the United States.

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“They hate us,” Derickson said. “They used epithets I would not like to repeat. America (they believe) is the reason for all evil in the world.”

She said the initial takeover of the plane as it flew from Athens to Rome appeared well planned. The two hijackers went to the lavatory and opened nylon bags. They emerged brandishing pistols and grenades and went down the center isle spraying passengers with mace.

The terrorists tied some of the passengers with neckties and plastic luggage straps. One of the hijackers spoke fluent German, allowing the German-born Derickson to communicate with him.

After the initial moment of sheer terror, gradually some sort of routine began to emerge. The passengers were forced to sit for hours, bent over in their seats. Sometimes they were kicked and karate-chopped. The flight attendants were not allowed to communicate directly with the passengers.

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But there were still thoughts of rebellion.

Some of the passengers managed to pass notes to each other discussing the possibility of trying to overpower the two hijackers as the plane flew to Beirut.

But Derickson said she managed to tell the passengers not to try anything while the flight was in midair.


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