Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bodies Show No Evidence of Bombing, Officials Say Investigators Search Ocean Floor for Recorders, Wreckage of 747

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bodies Show No Evidence of Bombing, Officials Say Investigators Search Ocean Floor for Recorders, Wreckage of 747

Article excerpt

Investigators scoured the sea floor for the scattered wreckage of TWA Flight 800, hunting evidence to nail down the cause of the disaster.

Of the bodies recovered from the ocean so far, none yet showed any sign of having been the victim in a bomb explosion, authorities said Saturday.

Navy investigators went out to sea during the morning to hunt for the Boeing 747's two recorders for cockpit conversations and flight data, the so-called black boxes, along with the plane's engines and other parts.

They sailed on the 110-foot private vessel Pirouette, equipped with an underwater microphone to pick up the sounds of the recorders' automatic locator beacons.

"The bottom line is, we want the wreckage off the ocean floor," said assistant FBI director James Kallstrom. "I'm beating up everybody out there who has the responsibility to find that evidence."

The ship also carried sonar to map the ocean floor, and a remotely piloted underwater vehicle carrying a video camera to film the bottom, he said.

At the same time, the Coast Guard, which is in charge of surface recovery, continued to search for debris Saturday with three planes, a helicopter and seven cutters.

Visibility was good Saturday, but the sea was too choppy for smaller vessels, a Coast Guard spokesman said.

The Paris-bound airliner, carrying 230 people, exploded shortly after takeoff from Kennedy Airport on western Long Island Wednesday evening, showering flaming debris on the ocean off the southern coast of Long Island. It was the second-worst aviation disaster in U.S. history.

Investigators still could not say whether a bomb was involved, although that was the prime theory.

"We're not prepared to say that until we know it's true," Kallstrom had said late Friday.

By late Friday, when choppy seas stalled the recovery effort, less than 1 percent of the wreckage had been found, said Robert Francis, National Transportation Safety Board vice chairman.

Of the 100 bodies recovered so far, 10 had been positively identified and 16 tentatively identified by midday Saturday, said Dr. Charles Wetli, Suffolk County medical examiner.

Robert Bonatempi, spokesman for Wetli's office, said the bodies had not yet provided any major clues.

"The body acts as a trap for projectiles when a bomb explodes, and to this point we have not seen any bodies that would indicate that there was a type of bomb," said Bonatempi. "There were no metal fragments in any of the folks that we examined to this point."

He also said there were no heat burns that might suggest a bomb exploded on the plane.

"There have been some chemical burns from the petrol, but it appears to be post mortem - chemical burns from the gasoline floating around," said Bonatempi.

"It doesn't make any difference; my daughter is gone," said Ron Dwyer, 42, of Phoenix, Ariz., the father of 11-year-old Larkyn Lynn Dwyer. …

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