A University City man who lost his family to a military jet crash that destroyed their home thanked the community today for its support and said he had “no hard feelings” for the pilot who ejected from the plane moments before the deadly accident.
Speaking in a halting words punctuated by long, grieving silences, Dong Yun Yoon told news crews near the ruins of the Cather Avenue home where the family had lived for several weeks that he wanted to “thank all the people who are praying for me and for my family.”
“And I heard they found one of my missing daughters (today), so I really thank the people who helped to find my family,” he said.
Killed in the crash of the F/A-18 Hornet on Monday was Yoon’s 36-year-old wife, Young Mi Yoon, daughters Grace, 15 months old, and 2-month-old Rachel, and his mother-in-law, Kim Suk Im, 60.
Emergency crews found the bodies of all the victims except Grace within hours of the midday accident, which destroyed two homes and damaged three others. Search personnel found the toddler’s body early this afternoon.
Yoon said he could not have imagined “such a horrible thing would have happened, especially right here, right (at) our house.”
“But I believe my wife and two babies and mother-in-law are in heaven with God,’' he said. “And I know God is taking care of them.”
When Yoon, accompanied by his brother, sister, pastor and fellow members of Korean United Methodist Church, approached the charred remnants of his home this afternoon, he stopped and put a white handkerchief to his face, looking unsteady on his feet. His brother put his arms around him and appeared to be helping him stand upright.
Yoon told reporters he had gotten the news that the pilot involved in the crash had escaped harm.
“Please pray for him not to suffer from this accident,” Yoon said. “I know he’s one of our treasures, for the country, and I ... don’t blame him. I don’t have any hard feelings. I know he did everything he could.’'
Yoon at times seemed overwhelmed by the enormity of the tragedy that had
“But I know there are many people who have experienced more terrible things. Please tell me how - how to do it.’'
Yoon described his lost family with reverence.
“My wife - it was God’s blessing that I met her about four years ago, and we got married,” he said quietly. “She’s just such a lovely wife and mother, who always loves me, and (the) babies. I just miss her so much.”
He then mentioned his daughters and their ages.
“I cannot believe that they are not here right now,’' he said.
Yoon’s mother-in-law had recently arrived from Korea “to take care of my babies,” he said.
“My father-in-law is coming tomorrow, and I don’t know what to tell him. I don’t know if he’ll ever forgive me.”
Before stepping away from the banks of cameras and microphones in front of him, Yoon expressed his thanks for those who have reached out to try to help him through his grief.
“There are many people who help me,” he said. “Our pastor, you know many people from our church, (the) police department, fire department - I really thank them.’'
-By Ken Fields and James R. Riffel