51 LRS honors past in ceremony

by Staff Sgt. Jake Barreiro
51st Fighter Wing PAO

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- The women and men of the 51st Logistic Readiness Squadron assembled for a ceremony memorializing a past tragedy April 4, 2015, at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea.

The ceremony honored the memory of the 16 dead and 11 injured in a jet fuel fire that happened here April 5, 1986.

The gathering marked the day before the 29th anniversary of the event. The women and men of the 51st LRS made a formation near the site of the blast and ensuing fire, which started when an accidental and unexpected explosion at a bulk storage location ignited more than 700,000 gallons of jet fuel.

"We gather today to pay tribute to the individuals who passed and remember the lives taken in the shadow of this event," said Maj. Eric Haler, 51st LRS commander and key speaker for the event.

Once the fire started, it burned more than 18 hours as local emergency responders struggled to get it under control.

Of the 16 killed in the fire, 15 were Korean nationals, and 1 was a United States service member.

"When we think about Korea and Osan, we think of the blood that was shed, that we lost together, during the Korean War in the 50s," said Haler. But nearly 30 years afterwards, we lost 16 more people during a time of armistice."

The ceremony was held to reflect on the loss, and also acknowledge and honor the heritage the U.S. and ROK service members share at Team Osan. The 51st LRS, in formation, rendered a salute as a bouquet of flowers was laid at the site of the tragedy.

"As we honor the men and women that lost their lives in this tragic accident, this reminds us of our heritage, the importance of safety, and that we're in a dangerous career field," said Haler. "We handle everything form jet fuel to cryogenics. We remember, reflect and think about everything that happened that day so we can honor our heritage and those who came before us. "

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