Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Hope, Anger Surround Search for Wreckage

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Hope, Anger Surround Search for Wreckage

Article excerpt

For a fourth frustrating day, federal officials searching the tossing waters of the Atlantic Ocean off Long Island were unable to reach the wreckage of TWA Flight 800 on Sunday, leading them to worry that the investigation of Wednesday's crash could take far longer than they had originally believed.

Efforts to locate the Boeing 747's debris were unsuccessful, even though Coast Guard vessels had crisscrossed a 500-square-mile grid more than 100 times by midafternoon. As a result, divers were not sent into the water on Sunday.

With the crucial evidence - the shattered wreckage - lying, unlocated, under 120 feet of water, federal investigators still could not officially declare what they deeply believe: that the explosion was the result of a criminal act.

"We'll be lucky if we get this in 11 days," one investigator said. Less than 1 percent of the wreckage has been recovered. And as wind and sea shifted the evidence on the ocean bottom, investigators worried that critical pieces might be washed away or lost under mounds of sand.

A crucial piece of equipment, side-scanning sonar, snagged on something on the ocean floor on Sunday and now has to be retrieved, federal officials said Sunday night.

Then a video camera sent below to look around failed to work. So, investigators said, they were not even sure whether the signal they picked up on Friday indicating a 15-foot object on the ocean floor was, indeed, the trail of debris they thought it was.

"It could be anything," said Al Dickenson, the chief investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board.

"We did not move the ball in terms of finding the wreckage," added James Kallstrom, the FBI agent in charge of the criminal investigation. He added, though, that his agents had questioned thousands of people and had made progress in building possible strategies for further investigation. He did not elaborate.

Early on Sunday, federal investigators reported that a Navy ship had picked up a "ping" sound, presumably from the black box that was a central object of the search. They said the sound was faint and faded in and out.

Later in the day - after the Navy reported its equipment problems - Navy officers said they had heard no pings. …

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