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Crash victims memorialized

More than 300 mourners gathered in the Everglades Tuesday to remember the 110 people who died when ValuJet Flight 592 nosedived into the chest-high water.

The private memorial prayer service at the site of the May 11 crash came on the eve of a funeral and burial for the 50 victims whose remains have not been identified.

"The purpose of the funeral service tomorrow will be to assist the families in their grief process and to bring closure to this tragedy," said James Wylie, executive director of the Florida Funeral Directors Association, which organized the services for ValuJet.

Investigators are looking into whether oxygen canisters stored in the DC-9's cargo hold ignited the fire that caused the airplane to crash shortly after taking off from Miami International Airport.

Family members did not talk to reporters as they boarded the buses outside a Miami hotel. Some carried flowers and stuffed animals. One woman carried a framed picture; another had a single red rose.

At the service site, about 500 feet west of where the airplane went down, some mourners scattered flowers in the water; others held hands.

Later, the relatives were scheduled to inspect and claim victims' personal items recovered from the crash site, 35 miles west of downtown Miami.

A funeral open to the public was planned for today at Woodlawn Park Cemetery South, 22 miles south of where the jetliner went down. Unidentified remains will be placed in 50 caskets and buried in a common grave, said Charles Nicolas, spokesman for the Dade County Medical Examiner Department.

The medical examiner has identified 60 victims, with the last three identifications coming last weekend, Nicolas said.

They will continue trying to identify remains, using photographs and notes, he said.

ValuJet paid for the mourners to travel to Miami and attend the services. All 80 families who lost relatives in the crash were invited; about 60 families accepted, according to ValuJet spokeswoman Marcia Scott.

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