Memorial for EgyptAir crash victims set for Sunday
'Black boxes' elude underwater search
November 7, 1999
NEWPORT, Rhode Island (CNN) -- A week after EgyptAir Flight 990 plunged into the Atlantic Ocean off Massachusetts, families of the 217 people lost in the crash gathered in Newport, Rhode Island, to say goodbye at a Sunday memorial service.
Late Saturday, investigators ended another fruitless day of trying to recover the flight recorders from the doomed jetliner. The recorders are believed buried under 250 feet of water.
After 10 hours of using a robotic probe to seek out the plane's cockpit voice and flight data recorders, investigators gave up shortly before midnight. Bad weather and high seas of 10 feet (3 meters) had earlier suspended retrieval efforts.
The boxes may hold vital clues about the cause of the Boeing 767's catastrophic dive into the ocean off Massachusetts in the early hours of October 31. But it could be Monday before searchers can use the probe to seek out the flight recorders again.
Flight 990 was heading from New York to Cairo last Sunday when it plummeted into the ocean at near-supersonic speed from a height of 33,000 feet (9,900 meters) early last Sunday.
"The real focus of the investigation...is to get those recorders," said James Hall, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.
Relatives gather for memorial service
Meanwhile, relatives of the victims were arriving throughout the weekend in Newport, for an interfaith memorial service scheduled Sunday afternoon, an EgyptAir official said.
"Currently, 340 people representing 135 of our loved passengers have been brought to Newport," said Samir el- Shanawany, EgyptAir's general manager for North America.
He said the airline, which has been providing air travel for relatives, expects that family members are still arriving.
"Our assistance representatives have received more than 20,000 calls," Shanawany said. He said the airline would continue to provide counseling services after the families returned to their homes.
Earlier Saturday, family members of the crash victims saw their first glimpse of pieces of the plane's recovered wreckage at a former military base.
Only one body from Flight 990 has been found. Medical examiners may have to rely on DNA matches with relatives to identify the crash victims.
Rhode Island Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse plans to file a court petition Monday to issue "certificates of presumption of death" for the passengers and crew members. The certificates would allow relatives to execute wills, collect life insurance benefits and pursue legal claims without waiting until remains are identified.
Deep Drone to retrieve flight recorders
Friday, an unmanned remote- controlled underwater robot called the Deep Drone picked up loud pinging sounds from both the recorders. Investigators said the robot located the recorders in about 270 feet (81 meters) of water. The robot was dropped from the Navy salvage and recovery ship USS Grapple. It is equipped with still and video cameras, also gave investigators a glimpse of the wreckage, although they couldn't see the recorders.
"They're right on the pingers, but they have yet to see the recorders," Hall said Saturday.
Deep Drone also has a mechanical claw that can retrieve objects from the ocean floor.
"We'll continue with the Deep Drone until we recover the boxes," said Navy Capt. Bert Marsh, who was coordinating the search. "I doubt very seriously that I will use the divers for recovery."
But the boxes may be entangled in the wreckage or buried under other debris. "We're going to have to dig to find them," Marsh said.
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