TOKYO -- The pilot of a Japan Air Lines DC-8 jet that crashed in Tokyo Bay killing 24 people said he felt sick and pushed the control stick forward, causing a nose-dive on the plane's landing approach, investigators said today.
'I thrust forward the control stick when the plane was in a landing position,' investigators quoted the pilot, Capt. Seiji Katagiri, 35, as saying. 'I was in bad shape and felt nauseous.'
Asked if he threw the engines into reverse, Katagiri said, 'I don't remember.' Officials said two of the jet's four engines which have been recovered from the crash scene were found in a reverse position.
Co-pilot Yoshifumi Ishikawa, 33, earlier was quoted as saying, 'I thought the captain had done something wrong. The control lever was extremely heavy when I pulled it up in an attempt to lift the plane.'
His statement indicated Katigiri had pushed the lever down, making the stick harder to reverse once the plane began its nose-dive.
Investigators today studied reports that Katagiri was among the first group of women and children to flee the sinking jet.
Toshihiro Kamiya of the Transport Ministry said the captain could be charged with violation the Air Safety Code that says he is required to ensure the safety of his passengers. A conviction could mean a five year prison term.
'It's unbelievable that he (Katagiri) was among the first to take a rescue boat,' JAL President Yasumoto Takagi told a news conference Sunday.
News photographers who covered the crash of the JAL DC-8 jetliner Feb. 9 said Katagiri abandoned the plane with the first group of women and children evacuees.
The photographers said JAL and police sources said they could identify Katagiri in pictures taken at the scene, moments after Flight 350 from Fukuoka plunged into Tokyo Bay with 174 people aboard.
Twenty-four passengers were killed in the crash about 350 yards short of the Haneda airport runway and 150 people were injured. The entire eight-person crew survived the crash.
Takagi earlier said the JAL captain once was grounded with a psychosomatic stomach disorder and police said he had asked them to search his apartment for listening devices he believed had been planted to spy on him.
Investigators said Katagiri could have been hallucinating at the time of the crash.
Katagiri, hospitalized with severe injuries, has maintained silence to most of the investigators' questioning.
Asked repeatedly about the last moments of the flight, he reportedly answered, 'I don't recall clearly,' or 'I cannot say it unless there is an attorney present.'
Police and transport investigators have disclosed the crash was caused by the pilot putting one of the four engines in reverse moments before what would have been an otherwise normal landing.
The retrieved voice recorder has the startled voice of co-pilot Yoshifumi Ishikawa yelling, 'What are you doing, captain?' the investigators said.
They said the third crew member in the cockpit, flight engineer Yoshiaki Ozaki, had unbuckled his seat belt, apparently trying in vain to avert the fatal course.