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Breaking News

Alaska Airlines Crash: Substantial Search-and-Rescue Operation Continues

Aired February 1, 2000 - 6:14 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Tucker, hold one second, we have some breaking news on the crash of the Alaska Airlines Jet. Sonia Ruseler is in Washington with the latest -- Sonia.

RUSELER: Thanks, Wolf. It as exactly 23 hours ago that Alaska Airlines flight 261 was reporting trouble. Let's go now to the Coast Guard to hear latest on their search-and-rescue operation.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The other request I would make of you, the admiral is getting ready to catch a flight. We need to try to be finished by around 3:30 so we can get him on the aircraft. I know that's fairly quick, but again, I just ask your cooperation. Thank you.

VICE ADM. TOM COLLINS, U.S. COAST GUARD: Good afternoon. I'd like to spend a little time, brief time this afternoon, to bring you up to date on our search-and-rescue efforts so far. And as I noted at this morning's press brief, the Coast Guard has launched and is continuing a very substantial search through this day. We have been working closely with all the other agencies -- National Transportation Safety Board, state and local activities, particularly the United States navy; and to build the partnership to get the best outcomes we can under the circumstances.

Using computerized search planning, we have conducted 51 search patterns over a 36 square mile area. The debris field has drifted a bit southwest at four-tenths of a knot -- not much.

We continue to have substantial number of assets, air assets and surface assets, involved in the search. The Coast Guard cutter Hamilton continues as on-scene coordinator of those on-the-water operations, and is the coordinating air assets: from the United States Coast Guard, a total of five; from the U.S. Air Force, the Navy, Air National Guard, as well as surface assets from the Coast Guard, eight cutters, larger ships and two boats -- four from the United States Navy and a variety of state and local agencies and good samaritans.

The weather has been to our advantage during the day -- visibility over seven 77 miles, winds from the northwest at five knots and sea two to three feet. And the Navy weather folks have given us a 24-hour forecast owe that point to this type of moderate weather, favorable to moderate weather, is expected top continue through the evening and into tomorrow.

The results: We have recovered no survivors. We have discovered no additional victims. We have recovered additional debris, three to four containers, the four to five to three-foot type of container we filled with miscellaneous numbers of debris, for control panel, seat cushions and fabric and small pieces of fuselage and so forth. And those, as I noted this morning, are being catalogued, and inventory and stored in a warehouse in Port Wanimi (ph), so that the National Transportation Safety Board may continue to build its investigatory efforts.

We continue to search for human lives. I'm not yet ready to make the decision to stop searching. It will remain a difficult decision. I will not make that decision until tomorrow morning. We're going to give this every opportunity. And given the weather conditions, our plans, our future plans, are to continue the search and coordinate the efforts of all the agencies involved with surface units and air assets on scene and in the debris-field area through the evening. And we'll make a close evaluation of where we are and what the next steps are.

Of course, as briefed to you -- I didn't attend the earlier briefing by the National Transportation Safety Board -- but clearly, they're building they're investigatory effort, and we will continue to partner with them to provide all support to them to that end.

So in sum, no major news to give you today other than our very substantial search effort continues. We continue to find debris. And no survivors.

RUSELER: Listening there to Vice Adm. Tom Collins, from the U.S. Coast Guard, saying they are still conducting a very substantial search-and-rescue operation, but they have found no survivors. However, they are still looking for people. It is his decision when to stop searching if there is anybody left alive on that plane, which had 88 people onboard. He says he will not make that decision until tomorrow morning. So far, though, they've only found debris.

Just to recap, it is exactly 23 hours ago that Flight 261 of Alaska Airlines reported it was having trouble with controlling the aircraft with a jammed stabilizer and was asking permission to descend more quickly and then for an emergency landing at Los Angeles International Airport, and then they lost radar contact with that plane at 4:21 p.m. Pacific Time, exactly 23 hours ago.

There will be a special edition of "INSIDE POLITICS" continuing with Wolf Blitzer right after this break.

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