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UND PROF CHALLENGES DRINKING-CRASH LINK
ALCOHOL CAN FORM IN BLOOD AFTER DEATH

A UND instructor and former flight surgeon, Dr. Warren Jensen, of UND's Center for Aerospace Sciences said it's premature to conclude that a former UND student pilot had been drinking before the jetliner he controlled crashed killing 264 people in Japan on 26 April 1994.

Jensen said alcohol found in the body of China Air Pilot Chuang Meng-Rong could have formed after the crash. "It is well documented that as a body decomposes, it can produce alcohol that is measurable in the blood," Jensen said. Jensen also said key factors remain unknown, including how long after death the blood sample was taken, the temperature and condition of the body and what bacteria were present. To figure out whether the alcohol was formed after death, researchers analyze other body tissues and fluids. "If alcohol has been ingested it would be present in those samples too," Jensen said.

Asahi, Japan's national newspaper, reported Friday that Chuang's blood-alcohol level was above the .05 percent threshold for intoxication under Japan's driving laws. U.S. aviation standards put the limit at .04 percent and prohibit pilots from drinking alcohol within eight hours of flying. China Airlines prohibits pilots and co-pilots from drinking within 24 hours of their flight.

Cockpit recordings showed Chuang was at the controls of the China Airlines flight that crashed April 26 in Japan during a failed landing attempt. Chuang was co-pilot.

Tim Burke, CAS director of communications, said there has been little national press attention to the link between the pilot and UND.  He was a very good student, both in the classroom and in the airplane. He passed all his certification tests on the first try. There can be no good that comes from an accident in which 264 people die, Burk said. "When your name is associated with an accident, that immediately causes problems for you."  Chuang graduated second in his class of 19 from UND's Spectrum program in November 1992.

Grand Forks Herald, May 7, 1994

Note: We are currently in the process of obtaining the final report on the fatal crash of this China Airlines aircraft pilot by a UND - trained pilot.