JFK Jr. plane search turns up more debris -- but no survivors
July 18, 1999
BOSTON (CNN) -- Searchers combing the seas off Massachusetts for John F. Kennedy Jr.'s missing airplane recovered more debris Sunday -- but found no signs of survivors.
Coast Guard Rear Adm. Richard Larrabee said a headrest from an airplane had been discovered, at least the second that has been found since the search began Saturday. Kennedy's plane had six seats.
Capt. Robert Bird of the Massachusetts State Police also said that insulation, consistent with what is used to line the cabin of an aircraft, washed up near Philbin Beach on Martha's Vineyard, near where other debris came ashore Saturday.
Meanwhile, Larrabee announced that a unified command post would be set up at Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod to oversee both search and recovery effort. The National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates plane crashes, has joined the effort, Larrabee said.
"All the debris is being sent to a secure area in Woods Hole, where the NTSB is cataloging it, marking it," Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Dave Oney told CNN.
The Piper Saratoga II HP carrying Kennedy; his wife, Carolyn, 33; and her sister, Lauren Bissette, 35, vanished Friday night about 9:30 p.m. while on a flight from New Jersey to Martha's Vineyard.
While Larrabee said a person might reasonably expect to survive only 12 hours in the 68-degree Atlantic waters off Martha's Vineyard, he stressed that searchers had not yet given up on the possibility that there could be survivors.
"The survivability in those waters has been exceeded," Larrabee said. "But I think those are only statistics, and they're only factors in all of the things we're looking at."
"We are still searching for more clues as to where this plane might have gone in," Larrabee said. "We're going to continue to search for the rest of the day."
Crews focused their search Sunday in a 550-square-mile area just southwest of Martha's Vineyard, but Larrabee said searchers also were still looking further afield.
"We're really covering a very large area ... that's 1,200 square miles, and that's to make sure we haven't missed something that drifted away from us," he said.
The search, originally covering a much larger area between Long Island and the Vineyard, shrunk considerably Saturday afternoon when debris and personal items identified as coming from Kennedy's plane was found just off the shore at Aquinnah.
Radar data put the plane about 17 miles from Martha's Vineyard just before it vanished about an hour after takeoff from Essex County Airport in Fairfield, New Jersey.
The Kennedy plane had been expected to arrive at Martha's Vineyard about 10 p.m., leaving Lauren Bessette behind while the Kennedys continued on to Hyannisport for a family wedding.
A thick haze grounded search planes overnight, but the sea search continued on a limited basis. All-terrain vehicles set out just after 5 a.m. EDT Sunday to comb the beaches of Aquinnah for more signs of wreckage.
Bird told reporters that two state police search boats were being deployed to search No Man's Land Island, 3 1/2 miles off the southwest coast of Martha's Vineyard.
Bird said the island, now a National Wildlife Refuge, was once used as a military target. Any search of the island will be conducted only on its shores, he said, because of the threat of unexploded munitions.
NTSB: JFK Jr.'s plane shows no in-flight break-up or fire
National Transportation Safety Board
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