Survivors of United Airlines Flight 232 returned to tearful reunions with relatives, their joy tempered by the horrors of the fiery crash and thoughts of those who failed to reach safety.

"We talked about how fortunate we are," said Garry Priest, 23, of Northglenn, who returned on a flight from Sioux City, Iowa, with Bruce Benham of Littleton. The two arrived at Stapleton International Airport Thursday night.Rescue officials, meanwhile, have recovered 109 bodies from the wreckage in Sioux City, Iowa.

City Manager Hank Sinda said officials planned to lift one of the DC-10's wings with a crane to see if there were two more bodies underneath.

Sinda reported 184 survivors, which would bring the total aboard to 295. That figure conforms to the total reported Thursday by National Transportation Safety Board officials.

The crash was caused by an explosion in the tail engine that triggered a failure in the hydraulic steering system, investigators confirmed Thursday night. The explosion apparently severed at least one crucial hydraulic line needed to operate the airplane's flaps, rudder and other control surfaces. The cut bled the hydraulic system dry, making safe operation of the plane virtually impossible.

Benham and Priest had been flying to Chicago on business and were sitting in a middle section of the jet. They said everyone in their section escaped serious injury and wandered out together through a hole in the plane and into a cornfield.

Priest said when he got out of the wreckage the area looked "like a war zone." Bodies, trash, magazines, luggage and pieces of bodies littered the area. "I feel bad for the people that I saw on the runway and that got caught," he said.

He said he and several other passengers found an injured woman outside the plane and carried her several hundred yards through tall stalks of corn to the runway.

"It was real organized. It really was," he said. "Everybody was just saying, `OK folks, let's take our time. Let's just walk out,' and we did."

Benham praised the pilot and the flight attendants for being calm, relaxed "and honest."

"The whole thing seemed unreal," said Benham, adding that he was shocked by television footage he saw later of the plane cartwheeling, because he did not remember such violence.

James Burnett, a member of the NTSB, said the DC-10's No. 2 engine, at the tail of the plane, was missing its entire turbine fan section, including blades, disc and part of its rotor. The damage was unusually severe for a jet-engine failure.

"This is the first time on this type of engine that we have ever seen that," Burnett said. The Federal Aviation Administration made no move to ground DC-10s.

Burnett said the plane's chief stewardess told investigators that a loud explosion occurred at the back of the plane about an hour after departing Denver's Stapleton International Airport. The blast threw flight attendants to the floor and the plane began vibrating severely. The flight attendant said passengers could see holes and flapping "skin" at the rear horizontal stabilizer.

Investigators later found a large, 10-inch-by-12-inch hole and three or four smaller holes, he said.

Burnett said all three of the plane's engines had been found at the airport crash site.

Dr. David Greco, director of emergency services for the Marian Health Center and one of the first physicians on the scene, said the plane's breakup determined the pattern of deaths and injuries.

The three members of the cockpit crew survived, but Greco said the first-class section was devastated. Passengers in the ninth through 19th rows suffered no injuries or minor ones, he added, but "there was nothing left of the rear half of the aircraft."

Tales of heroism abounded, beginning with praise for Capt. Al C. Haynes, a 33-year United veteran.

Gov. Terry Branstad visited Haynes' bedside and said: "He was quite emotional and tears came to his eyes when he talked about the number of people who lost their lives.

"I told him he did a valiant job."

Investigators also collected maintenance records on the 15-year-old aircraft. Burnett said toxicology tests given to the people in cockpit were negative.

GE Aircraft Engines dispatched a team to assist in the investigation.