Hope dims for finding EgyptAir crash survivors
More debris recovered
November 1, 1999
NEWPORT, Rhode Island (CNN) -- U.S. Coast Guard aircraft Monday resumed searching the Atlantic Ocean off Massachusetts, but hope was slim that any survivors would be found from the weekend crash of EgyptAir Flight 990.
Overnight, search vessels picked up more wreckage and personal items, but the voice and flight data recorders from Boeing 767-300ER have yet to be located in the search area southeast of Nantucket Island.
While relatives mourned the 217 passengers and crew members, investigators worked to figure out what caused the jetliner to plummet into the sea from 33,000 feet early Sunday. The descent took just two minutes.
Weather due to worsen
"It may take us getting the recorders and getting other data to (determine what happened)," National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Jim Hall told CNN.
Hall said a decision would be made Monday as to when to change the current "search and rescue" mission -- to look for possible survivors -- to a "recovery" mission, meaning the retrieval of bodies.
Although the weather was relatively cooperative, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Richard Larrabee said rainy, windy conditions were forecast for Tuesday.
"It's important for us (Monday) to search that area thoroughly to recover all of the debris we possibly can because the weather's going to change (Tuesday). We expect a front through here with some adverse weather conditions," he told CNN.
Recovered body, debris
Search crews scouring about 40 square miles of the Atlantic recovered a lone body Sunday in water that is just 58 degrees Fahrenheit and up to 270 feet deep.
A Navy salvage ship, the USS Grapple, and Navy divers were expected to arrive in the area by Tuesday night, with orders to take debris and remains to a Navy base in Newport, Rhode Island.
The 10-year-old plane slammed into the ocean 33 minutes after leaving New York for Cairo with dozens of American tourists on board.
By Monday, searchers had recovered two of the jet's evacuation slides, clothing and passports, partially inflated life rafts, life jackets and seat cushions.
None of the items had burn marks, which could have indicated a fire or explosion on board, Larrabee said Sunday as the search began. And with no distress call from the pilots and a fall of nearly 300 feet per second, investigators had few clues.
The FBI and other intelligence agencies are investigating the possibility of sabotage, but authorities said there has been no indication of foul play.
About half the flight's passengers were Americans, including a group of 54 bound for a two-week trip to Egypt and the Nile. Alan Lewis, chief executive of the Boston travel agency Grand Circle Corp., said most of the group members were from Colorado, Arizona and the Pacific Northwest.
The plane started its flight in Los Angeles and stopped at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. It took off again at 1:19 a.m. EST Sunday and went down at 1:52 a.m., some 60 miles south of Nantucket Island in water about 270 feet deep.
The jet began its steep descent at 1:50 a.m. while flying at 33,000 feet. Hall said the plane dropped about 14,000 feet -- to an altitude of 19,100 feet -- over the next 36 seconds. The last radar signal was at 1:52 a.m.
Yet during that catastrophic plummet, the jetliner apparently possessed enough electrical power to broadcast its fast-diminishing altitude from its transponder, indicating to some aviation experts that the jet did not immediately break up even if its distress was instant.
If electricity was still functioning at that point, it increases the likelihood that the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorders -- if found -- will contain information that will help investigators.
The weather at Nantucket at the time was clear with 9 miles of visibility and wind of 9 mph, the National Weather Service said.
Mubarak offers condolences
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak offered condolences Monday to the families of the doomed plane's passengers and crew.
"When I heard about it, I was shocked. It was a big tragedy for us," he said in Cairo. "But this is our fate. It could happen anywhere in the world."
He declined to speculate on the cause of the crash.
Search for clues begins in EgyptAir disaster
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