Finding 'black boxes' now top priority at EgyptAir crash site
November 2, 1999
NEWPORT, Rhode Island (CNN) -- With bad weather moving in and deep sea divers on the way, U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels searched Tuesday for more EgyptAir crash wreckage. With hope of finding survivors now abandoned, the top priority is locating the so-called "black boxes" from Flight 990.
A "ping" signal believed to be from one of the devices -- the flight-data recorder or the cockpit voice recorder -- was detected Monday by Coast Guard searchers, who also found the first large piece of wreckage from the Boeing 767.
The search is concentrated 60 miles south of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, in water some 270 feet deep.
The recorders could provide key clues for investigators trying to determine why the Cairo-bound plane plunged 33,000 feet without warning into the sea early Sunday, not long after leaving Kennedy International Airport in New York.
All 217 people on board were killed.
The National Transportation Safety Board has set a command post in Newport, Rhode Island, for an investigation expected to take months and cover many areas -- from potential human error and mechanical failure to the possibility of sabotage.
Authorities say there is no evidence suggesting foul play.
Across Narragansett Bay from Newport, crash debris and human remains were being unloaded at Quonset Point, a former Navy base where investigators will try to reconstruct the shattered plane.
The Coast Guard, fearing bad weather by Tuesday night, has stepped up its search for debris and human remains. Only one body has been recovered, but authorities said searchers are finding evidence of human remains.
Debris collected so far -- some of it by student sailors from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy -- includes shoes, purses and twisted, sodden teddy bears.
The retrieved debris lacks burn marks that might indicate a fire or explosion, search officials said.
Divers face difficulty
The ocean-going tug Mohawk, a crane-equipped Navy vessel, Tuesday joined Coast Guard ships that have been searching non-stop for wreckage since Flight 990 crash.
The USS Grapple arrived Tuesday in Newport, carrying divers who will try to retrieve the flight data and cockpit voice recorders.
Government rules require the capsules holding the recorders be able to withstand pressure at 20,000 feet under water and resist corrosion from salt water for 30 days.
The pinging sound is supposed to be emitted every second for 30 days.
The sonar-equipped Grapple helped retrieve wreckage from the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island, New York, and the 1998 crash of Swissair Flight 111 off Nova Scotia.
But Jim Hall, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said divers face an especially daunting task this time. Flight 990 crashed in water twice as deep as Flight 800.
Divers will have to don helmets and be connected by hoses to an air supply on the Grapple. The depth will limit how long they can be below.
Investigators turn to recovery phase in EgyptAir crash
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