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U.S. Crew Released From China en Route to Hawaii

Aired April 12, 2001 - 06:47   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JASON CARROLL, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. spy plane crew released from China is now en route to Hawaii at this moment.

CNN's Rusty Dornin joins us now live from Hickam Air Force Base, where the crew is due to arrive later today.

Rusty, what can they expect?

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jason, about two hours ago, all 24 crewmembers boarded a C-17 in Guam, for the trip to Honolulu. They were able to stay in Guam for about 4 1/2 hours to decompress a little bit. They were able to get something to eat, take a shower, change their clothes, and call their loved ones. They were all able, apparently, to make calls to their family and loved ones before they got back on a plane, this time a military transport plane to jet back to Honolulu. And they are expected to land here 6:30 or 7:00 this morning.

There will be a short ceremony here, with a band and some military pomp and circumstance. The first one off the plane, probably, if it's anything like what happened in Guam, is likely to be the pilot, Lieutenant Shane Osborn. He's likely to deplane first. We may hear a few comments from him. Navy Officials say that is a possibility, although that's not ironclad.

Right after the ceremony here, they will be whisked away to Pearl Harbor Naval Base, where they will spend two days of intensive debriefing. That will include medical examinations, which may just be a formality, because, as we understand, they've been treated very well during their time in China. Also if they need any psychological counseling, there will be counselors on hand.

But the most important part as far as the military is concerned, of course, is the intelligence debriefing. They'll be questioned. All 24 crewmembers will give their perspective on what happened during the flight, before the collision, right after the collision, and, of course, right before the plane landed. They will be asked how much of the sensitive, sophisticated military equipment they were able do disable or to destroy before the plane landed. Also, the investigators are going to want to know what were the Chinese asking them for the 11 days that they were detained in China -- what kind of questions did they receive there?

So they'll be here for two days. And then on Saturday morning, they will board two planes, and they'll go to Whidbey Island, which is where their plane was based, originally. And there, there will be a giant party, a big homecoming with families and friends, and the entire town is getting together to throw a big shindig for them. Apparently, the Navy Base is even throwing open all the doors.

So that will be on Saturday afternoon. That's when the big "heroes' welcome" will be going on. This one will be a small celebration. It will be a heroes' welcome, but it will be small and fairly brief so that they can get started on their debriefing.

Back to you.

CARROLL: All right, Rusty, I know a lot of folks are going to be looking forward to their return. Thanks so very much for that.

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