Laguna Hills Pair Returning From Friend's Wedding Killed : Santa Ana Cheerleader Among Detroit Crash Victims

Times Staff Writers

A 16-year-old cheerleader from Santa Ana returning from a visit with her father in Ohio and a couple from Laguna Hills coming home from a friend's wedding were listed Monday among the victims of the crash of Northwest Airlines Flight 255 in Detroit.

As many as a dozen passengers aboard the flight, which crashed shortly after takeoff and was scheduled to stop in Phoenix, were believed to have been headed for John Wayne Airport in Orange County. Northwest Airlines refused to release a complete passenger list Monday.

But other sources said the victims included:

- Hidi Ratliff, 16, of Santa Ana, who would have been a senior and a varsity cheerleader at Costa Mesa High School during the coming school year. Friends said she had flown to Toledo, Ohio, to visit her father for the first time in two years and was returning Sunday to arrive home in time for cheerleading practice.

- Raphael Tombasco Jr., 34, district manager for Kendall Refining Co. in the City of Commerce, and his wife, Lisa Tombasco, 26, a registered nurse at Beverly Manor Convalescent Hospital in Laguna Hills. Friends said the couple, of Laguna Hills, had been married 10 months and had flown to Corning, N.Y., to attend a friend's wedding.

Pamn Husted, a friend of Hidi Ratliff's mother, Mary Ann Ratliff, said the daughter had appeared in a few television commercials and shows before she turned 12. "She was a doll--blond, positive, energetic, talented," Husted said. She quit at age 12 "because she just lost interest," Husted said.

Mother a Flight Instructor

"The ironic thing is, Mary Ann is a flight instructor and Hidi flew on private aircraft thousands and thousands of times," Husted said.

Costa Mesa High School officials described the teen-ager as an average student who was very active on campus and wanted to go to college.

Marlene Felter of Costa Mesa, mother of Hidi's 17-year-old boyfriend, Tim Felter, said she had received a letter from Hidi recently that was full of "how much she missed her home and family."

"She was the best," Tim said.

Chris Taylor, Hidi's pep squad adviser, said the first practice session was scheduled for Monday morning on campus and the rest of the pep squad members arrived without knowing that Hidi had been killed.

"They're really upset," she said. "A lot of them are having a hard time dealing with it." Pep squad practice was canceled for the rest of the week, she said.

Excited About Trip

The Tombascos' next-door neighbor, Alton Burkhalter, said the couple were excited about their trip to New York, where they were to attend a wedding in Buffalo.

"They're from back there," he said. "They were very family-oriented, just two of the finest people."

Arthur Tombasco, Raphael Tombasco's older brother, said in an interview from Corning, N.Y., that after the wedding the couple had gone straight to Syracuse to visit relatives.

"So they flew right out of Syracuse," he said. "That was the most convenient flight. Detroit was a stopover on the way to Laguna Hills."

He said the couple had lived in California only about nine months. "He was working in Buffalo as a salesman and was promoted. They moved out there (to California) and loved it out there. They were just getting ready to buy a house."

He said the news of the crash came at 3 a.m. Monday in a telephone call from the airline. The airline called again Monday morning to confirm that the two had been aboard the plane.

"Northwest Airlines is going to let us know when it's time to come out," but the family does not feel like making the trip, he said.

"I'm not sure we're going to go out," he said. "I sent them dental records (for identifying the bodies)."

Staff writers Mark Landsbaum and Jonathan Weisman contributed to this story.

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