LOS ANGELES — – Long before investigators called off their search for survivors of the Alaska Airlines crash, members of the Ost family had accepted the awful truth.
Their thoughts turned to planning a visit to the crash site and coming to grips with their relatives' deaths.
"I just want to know that our family members didn't suffer and that it was just fast," said a tearful Janis Ost Ford, who lost her mother, brother and other relatives in Monday's crash of Flight 261.
The flight was headed to San Francisco and Seattle from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, when it plunged into the Pacific. All 88 people aboard were killed.
Ford gathered with her husband, cousin and aunt at the Renaissance Hotel on Wednesday to listen as authorities briefed victims' families about that day's decision to stop searching for survivors. They had concluded no one on the plane could still be alive.
Her eyes filled with tears as she recalled the descriptions officials gave of the bodies and body parts they have recovered so far.
Ford's brother, Robert Ost; his wife, Ileana; and their 4-month-old daughter, Emily, were aboard the plane. Her mother, Jean Permison, and Permison's boyfriend, Charles Russell, were traveling with them. The five had gone to Puerto Vallarta to celebrate Permison's 73rd birthday.
Reports that authorities had recovered the body of an infant had Ost family members wondering if it was Emily. Ford thought burying an actual body might make it easier for her brother's 10- and 12-year-old children, who live in Connecticut, to cope with the loss of their baby sister.
Ford's cousin, Fred Ost of Skokie, Ill., had no interest in identifying bodies, but said he may visit the crash site.
"One would've been too much. For it to be five, I can't even describe it," he said.
The beaches of Port Hueneme have become a mecca for mourners — not only family members, but local residents looking for a way to express their grief for the victims and their relatives.
Many walked quietly to the sand, looking to the sea and kneeling for a moment of prayer.
"It's very sad," said Miguel Morales as he gathered with fellow Victory Outreach parishioners Wednesday alongside Hueneme Pier, where a floral tribute includes a sign: "Remembering those lost ... pray for their families."
On Tuesday, several family members visited the beach, using 16-ounce foam cups to scoop up sand as a keepsake.
Some returned Wednesday. About 20 relatives of crash victims boarded a 50-foot sportfishing boat, Jeanne, to view the crash site.
As the boat passed the pier en route to the site, Elvia De Haro tossed a bouquet of flowers into the water.
"We all feel bad about it," she said, "but imagine how they feel."