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Kaczynski family wants state funeral held Sunday

Last Updated: Friday, April 16, 2010 - 18:46

Warsaw (Poland): The family of late President Lech Kaczynski has urged that his state funeral be held Sunday in Krakow as planned despite fears that a volcanic ash cloud emanating from Iceland may keep some world leaders from attending.

In was the family`s first statement since the president and his wife, Maria Kaczynska, died in a plane crash Saturday in western Russia along with 94 others among Poland`s political and military elite.
"It is the will of the family that, under no circumstance, the date of the funeral be changed," Presidential Palace spokesman Jacek Sasin said on the family`s behalf.

Airports in Poland were closed Friday, however, as a cloud of volcanic ash drifting from Iceland forced huge patches of European airspace to be closed. It unclear if Poland`s airports would reopen in time to receive world leaders arriving late Sunday to attend the state funeral.

The government also has said it does not plan any postponement of the ornate funeral service at Wawel Cathedral in Krakow.

"Theoretically, there exists such an option," Sasin said, but any delay would be an "absolute last resort."

Among world leaders planning to attend are President Barack Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedv and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Late Thursday, the White House said Obama would fly to Poland on Saturday. Deputy White House Press Secretary Bill Burton said, "It`s something that we`re keeping an eye on. Right now, our schedule is still on."

A Krakow airport spokeswoman said that while the airport was closed indefinitely, it was still preparing to receive world leaders on Sunday.

"A two-day perspective ahead of the arrival of those planes is a relatively long time," Justyna Zajaczkowska told the Associated Press. "All we can do is wait."

Poland is preparing a tradition-laden funeral for Kaczynski and his wife, who were among the 96 people killed when their plane went down in heavy fog after clipping a birch tree on approach to Smolensk. They had planned to attend a memorial for thousands of Polish army officers executed in 1940 by the forerunner of the Soviet secret police in the nearby Katyn forest.
Polish investigators on Friday began examining one of three black boxes from the crashed Tu-154 plane, after Russian officials said their study of the boxes suggested pilot error was to blame.

The investigation is moving fairly quickly, aviation experts said, but some Poles have complained about a lack of public information, including the transcript of conversation in the cockpit before the accident.

Officials said they planned to release details from the black boxes only after the weekend memorial ceremonies.

The black boxes are being examined for more clues as to why the plane crashed. Investigators from both Russia and Poland have said human error was likely to blame. The pilot had been warned of bad weather and advised to land elsewhere, which would have delayed the Katyn observances.

Russia`s Interstate Aviation Committee said the preliminary investigation found that the plane hit some trees about 1,050 meters (yards) from the paved runway, according to Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti,

"After 200 meters, the left wing of the plane struck a tree, as a consequence of which the plane sharply heeled and turned over to the left," the report said. "The main mass of fragments of the airliner are about 300-350 meters from the runway and about 150 meters to the left of it."

Jerzy Artymiak, spokesman for Polish military prosecutors, said two black boxes are still being examined in Russia.

Bureau Report

First Published: Friday, April 16, 2010 - 18:46
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