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Palm Harbor man died in crash

A retired flight attendant from Palm Harbor was on the fatal TWA Flight 800.

Francis Gasq, 57, was flying back to his native France with his mother, Claire, to be with her during cataract surgery. They left Tampa some time last Wednesday on a flight that connected with Flight 800 in New York, said Donald Moore, longtime friend of Mr. Gasq.

Mr. Gasq had worked more than 29 years with TWA bases in St. Louis, New York and Tampa before retiring as a flight attendant in 1992. His wife, Angelita Pangan-Gasq, 53, works as a flight attendant for the airline.

She was at home Wednesday on Indian Bluff Island near Palm Harbor, said her sister Rosemary Pangan.

The sisters flew here Tuesday from New York to gather household items _ such as pieces of paper and picture frames _ in hopes that police could detect fingerprints that would help identify Claire Gasq if her body is discovered. Mr. Gasq's medical and dental records already had been sent to New York, she said.

Friends and family described Mr. Gasq as a witty man who got along with most everyone.

"He was a wonderful fellow," Moore said. "He was very personable, a skill he developed over the years working with TWA."

People called him "Frenchie" because his French accent still lingered, although he moved to the United States in 1963 from a small French town. He moved to Florida in 1981 and married Mrs. Gasq 12 years ago after they met while working for TWA.

Mr. Gasq maintained his French citizenship for ease in traveling and taking care of his mother, who still lived in France. But Rosemary Pangan said he also was a U.S. citizen. "He loved this country," she said.

Mr. Gasq had two daughters, Murielle Gasq-Coste, 31, of Tucson, Ariz., and Sandrine Hogan, 27, of Tacoma, Wash. Family members are planning a funeral service in France, Pangan said.

Notification is subject of legislation

Angered by delays in contacting families after the TWA disaster, the chairman of the House Transportation Committee wants to force airlines to turn over the task to the Red Cross or some other group.

Rep. Bud Shuster, R-Pa., said Wednesday that requirement will be included in a bill he plans to introduce next week providing for the families of victims of disasters.

It took 25 hours for the airline to release a list of passengers who were on the jumbo jet that exploded over the Atlantic off Long Island on July 17.

Airline officials said the delay was caused by efforts to contact all the families and offer them assistance before making the list public.

Members of Congress also called for hearings on the crash and aviation safety.

Sen. Larry Pressler, R-S.D., said he would call Transportation Secretary Federico Pena to a Senate hearing next week to question him on issues of airline security. Pressler is chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Not the first 747 to crash in flames

The crash of TWA Flight 800 was not the first time witnesses on the ground watched as a Boeing 747 burst into flames and tumbled to Earth.

Twenty years ago, in a crash that drew little public attention, a former Continental Airlines 747-100, converted into a freighter for the Iranian air force, exploded in flight near Madrid, Spain.

As the jet descended into Madrid in a heavy rainstorm on May 9, 1976, witnesses reported it caught fire and exploded, losing its left wing as it careened to Earth. All 17 on board were killed.

U.S. authorities studied the Madrid crash but were unable to pinpoint a cause. There are no known parallels between the Madrid and TWA crashes.

In the week since the TWA crash, many experts have publicly said there was no precedent for a 747 exploding into flames in flight.

_ Times staff writer Sharon Tubbs contributed to this report.