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Breaking News

Alaska Airlines Flight 261: Coast Guard, Alaska Airlines, NTSB Officials Hold News Conference on Search-and-Rescue Mission

Aired February 1, 2000 - 10:01 a.m. ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: It's now been more than 14 hours since an Alaska Airlines MD-83 nose dived into the Pacific Ocean just off the coast of Southern California. Search crews have combed the waters throughout the night and recovered shattered pieces of that airliner and some bodies on board, with 88 people on board that plane.

White House officials say they have been told that search crews are honing in on the pingers from the "black box." Meanwhile, Coast Guard officials stress they are still looking for survivors, but with water temperatures in the mid-50s, such hope is fading.

Flight 261 left Puerto Vallarta, Mexico yesterday afternoon about 3:30 local time. An hour and six minutes into its flight to San Francisco, the plane lost contact with air traffic controllers. A witness reports seeing it plunge nose-first into the Santa Barbara Channel, about 11 miles off Point Mugu in Southern California.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: In those final, terrifying moments aboard Flight 261, the pilots reported they had lost control of the plane.

For the latest on the final radio transmission, we go now to our Greg LaMotte who is at Port Hueneme with the latest -- Greg.

GREG LAMOTTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Daryn, the search is definitely intensifying for possible survivors of Alaska Air Flight 261 that went down in the Pacific late yesterday afternoon. The U.S. Coast Guard is getting help from the U.S. Navy. The USS Jared (ph), a Navy frigate, is involved, and so is the destroyer USS FIFE. On top of that, after a long night of searching the waters with flood lights, the searchers are getting the ally of sunlight: Daybreak has now hit Southern California.

At least one body and possibly several others have been discovered, along with airplane debris, toys from Mexico, a stuffed animal and a show. It's still being called a search-and-rescue operation, but given the fact that the plane may have hit the water nose first from 17,000 feet and ended in waters that were in the 50- degree range, the likelihood of finding survivors is extremely remote.

Eighty-eight people, including five crew members, were on their way from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to San Francisco, and then on to Seattle. Late yesterday afternoon, after having flown past Los Angeles, the pilot of the plane radioed that he was having trouble with the stabilizer trim.

The U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, and possibly others, are holding a news conference now, and we will give way to them.

LCDR. JEFF ROBERTSON, PACIFIC AREA PUBLIC AFFAIRS, U.S. COAST GUARD: Does everyone have their mikes on, cameras all set? Just want to make sure we're all set to go.

I'd like to welcome you all here this morning. I'm Lt. Commander Jeff Robertson with the Coast Guard. We're here this morning to provide you with a brief press conference, availability. And, first of all, Vice Admiral Thomas Collins, who is the Coast Guard's Pacific area commander, and also commander of the 11th Coast Guard district, will speak first.

Also on stage with him is Captain George Wright, who is the commander of the Coast Guard group in Los Angeles. He is the local on-scene commander. Following the admiral, there'll be a brief statement by the NTSB. And then following that, there will be a brief statement by a representative of Alaska Airlines.

So, Admiral Collins.

VICE ADMIRAL THOMAS COLLINS, U.S. COAST GUARD: Good morning. I'd like to speak briefly about the focus of our search-and-rescue efforts so far regarding Alaska Airlines Flight 261 and address our plans for the future. Let me stress from the onset here, I will contain my comments to the search-and-rescue part, search-and-rescue evolution of this tragedy.

As you know, at 4:30 yesterday afternoon, Alaska Airlines Flight 261 crashed into the Pacific Ocean off Anacapa Island with 88 people aboard. The Coast Guard launched a massive and immediate response upon notification. We sent every boat, cutter and aircraft at our disposal to the sea. We are working very closely with the FAA, Alaska Airlines, the United States Navy, the Department of Transportation, the National Transportation Safety Board, as well as state and local officials and local fisherman, private citizens, in a solid team effort during this search-and-rescue mission.

We recalled personnel up and down the California coast, more than 300 Coast Guard men and women. Eight Coast Guard cutters and five aircraft have been searching throughout the night. We have received massive support from the United States Navy in the form of fast frigates, spruants (ph), destroyers from the 3rd Fleet, local smaller vessels from Port Hueneme, the explosive ordnance disposal team, aircraft Petri O'Ryan (ph), helicopter NH-60. We've received support from the United States Air Force through helicopters and fixed-wing assets, and of course innumerable state and local resources, Baywatch boats, commercial vessels, pleasure boats, and so on.

This is a sad time, a horrible tragedy. And as we continue to search, our minds are on the mission, but our hearts are with the families and loved ones of the passengers on board Flight 261.

We have used a computerized search plan from yesterday afternoon through the evening and into this morning. We have conducted over 38 search patterns and through and over a fairly well-contained and tight debris field covering approximately 15 square miles. Upon the inception of the search yesterday afternoon, we inserted a data marker buoy that gives us information on drift and current. And, again, we're fairly confident in the tightness of this debris field.

We have attempted to be in contact with families, briefing them on our efforts. We will continue to do so through the morning, working with Alaska Airlines.

This is still a search for human lives. The decision to stop searching is mine -- mine to make, and is a difficult one. Our plans today are to continue to search and coordinate all the efforts of the agencies involved in the search effort.

What have we found to date? We have found about 12 boxes full, after retrieving the debris and putting them in containerized boxes about 3 by 5 by 4. There's about 12 of these of miscellaneous debris from the aircraft: Smaller pieces, a fuselage, a structure -- framing of the aircraft and seat material. We also have recovered victims: one infant, one adult male, two adult females. We will continue with these efforts. The Ventura County coroner is presently securing these victims' remains.

I might add that Port Hueneme, here, the naval facility of Port Hueneme, is our base of operation. We shifted from Los Angeles area in the middle of the night, establishing a command center here at approximately midnight. Clearly, it's advantageous to be close to where the search efforts are taking place. So we're in temporary facilities here at Port Hueneme. We thank our United States Navy hosts for their continuing support of this effort. There's also warehouse facilities here that will serve as the repository for the debris, at least on a temporary basis.

Again, our future plans today are to continue the search, a coordinated search, with a substantial number of large ships, aircraft, small patrol boats and a small -- and smaller vessels. The on-scene effort, that is, the on-the-water effort, is being coordinated by the Coast Guard cutter Hamilton that is home-ported in San Diego, one of our Coast Guard's larger vessels, controlling both the surface search and the air search.

This is a -- been a terrible accident with victims already found. We will continue our efforts through the day until I believe there is no chance of finding survivors. I'll be opened later after the other platform members here make brief comments relative to their role and part in this tragedy, and I'd first like to introduce John Hammerschmidt from the National Transportation Safety Board, obviously, who play materially and centrally in these efforts and who have just arrived on scene, this morning -- John.

JOHN HAMMERSCHMIDT, NTSB: OK, thank you very much, Admiral Collins. Again my name the John Hammerschmidt. I'm a board member of the National Transportation Safety Board.

As most of you know, the NTSB will be in charge of this accident investigation. This press briefing, it's my understanding, is to discussion the search-and-rescue aspects of the accident, and we will not be discussing at this point, from the NTSB's standpoint, any of the details of our accident investigation. We hope to have a press opportunity this afternoon at which time we will be able to more fully explain our role in the accident investigation and what we've learned up to that point.

As Admiral Collins just mentioned, our team has just arrived here. We -- our airplane, which we were on from Washington, D.C., arrived about two hours ago, and we were met by one of our investigators from our Los Angeles regional office who has been briefing us in the interim. We had 12 people on board that aircraft: 10 NTSB personnel, one FAA person and one individual with the Naval Office of Superintendent of Salvage.

We, of course, are in the process of getting this investigation organized. We have been trying to get oriented up to this point after just arriving. We plan to hold an organizational meeting at approximately 9:00, this morning, at which time we will officially get the investigation organized along with the different parties to the investigation who will be assisting us.

Of course it goes without saying that to all those who have been affected by this accident, that, from the NTSB, our thoughts and prayers are with you. It's a very tragic accident, and we will be proceeding with the formal investigation as the day progresses. And I just wanted to take this opportunity to establish that our team has arrived, at least the first part of the team, and we are at work. Thank you.

ROBERTSON: I'd like to introduce Mr. Bill Weaver, who is vice president of maintenance and engineering with Alaska Airlines.

BILL WEAVER, ALASKA AIRLINES: Thank you, Commander Robertson.

First of all, I'd like to start out by saying a heartfelt thank you from the family of Alaska Airlines for all the efforts that the joint search-and-rescue efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy. No airline official likes to find themself in this situation. All the times, the drills, the preparation that we have in preparing our emergency procedures we always hope it always remains a drill. That's not the case today.

Our efforts, I think, our preparation have put us in a good position, today. Earlier -- well, actually last night, we deployed several members of our care team, which is our compassionate- assistance-relief-effort team. They are in place. Most of those people are in Seattle, San Francisco and L.A., today, meeting with family members. There will be other family member meetings today as well.

Again, that's really all that I had to say. I know that there will probably be some questions that I may be able to answer. At this point in time we are cooperating completely with the investigation as it gets started. And again, a heartfelt thank you for the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard for their efforts in this search and recovery. ROBERTSON: I'd now like to open up to questions. And if we could, we also have individuals here in attendance today, as I said, Captain Wright, who is the on-scene commander, some subject-matter experts that may have answers to your questions. If you would, please, address your questions to one of the members and then if we need to follow up we'll be glad to follow up with that after the questions.

QUESTION: To anybody who might answer this for us: Was there any military testing going on at the time of this crash, yesterday afternoon? (OFF-MIKE) very busy. Was there any military activity at all that might somehow shed some light on all of this?

COLLINS: I'm not aware of any, as we haven't examined that as part of the -- clearly, as part of the search and rescue effort, so I don't have information to answer that question.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that pings have been heard from the flight data recorder?

COLLINS: Yes. We have, in fact, heard the pinging. That was the result of efforts from the underwater demolition team from the United States Navy at Port Hueneme have located pinging. Now, whether that's from one box or two black boxes is unknown at this time, but we have a position located, and obviously as we work with the National Transportation Safety Board and as they determine how they want to deal with that, we'll support them in that effort. But that is obviously a prime lead and a prime finding that will be followed through in this incident.

QUESTION: Can you describe what, if any, deep-sea diving vessels might be brought in in this search?

COLLINS: We have -- we've had some preliminary discussions with the United States Navy, and I'm not prepared to detail all the -- all the assets. That's discussions already continuing to unfold, and that will be part, quite frankly, of the investigatory effort that the National Transportation Safety Board will be materially in charge of. So, more to follow on that. We'll be prepared maybe at the end of the day or later to try to give a little bit more substance. But given the fact we're so early into this event, we don't have all those issues worked out at this juncture.

QUESTION: Admiral, have you done any diving at all so far?

COLLINS: There's been no diving done.

QUESTION: Any idea where in the water the plane may be, the pieces at the bottom?

COLLINS: We have a -- again, a very tight area relatively, three to five -- a mile -- three to five miles where we believe the aircraft went down. The debris field has been very, very tight. Obviously, a complicating factor is the depth of the water in the Santa Barbara channel. Those familiar with this area know that it's relatively deep water, anywhere in the range of seven -- approximately 700 feet, and obviously that will have to be addressed as we work through the follow-on phases of this effort.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) in one piece or several pieces?

COLLINS: Now, we don't have -- we haven't progressed that far in the efforts.

QUESTION: Can you say what your biggest challenge and your best hope is now?

COLLINS: Of course, the challenge is time. As time clicks off, risks go up. The temperature of this water is 56 to 58, and of course in those kinds of water-temperature conditions there is -- it's tough survivability factors involved. So, I would say time.

Our intentions, again, is to -- as I indicated and we can give you, if you're interested, at the joint information center a detailed roster of all our assets that are involved. We have a considerable number of assets. We will continue at a very high tempo to scour the waters through today, into the end of the day. While we have daylight hours, this is a maximum window at this joint in terms of today in trying to -- trying to find what we can find.

QUESTION: Would you please describe the challenges that are being faced out there by some of the search-and-rescue teams? We understand that the swells are between 12-15 feet right now?

COLLINS: I have -- George, six feet? -- we are within a six-feet range. Winds fairly reasonable. So, in terms of the California coastline, there is more challenging conditions that you can experience there. So I would say moderate, moderate sea conditions and we are benefiting from that perspective.

QUESTION: Admiral, how do you make the decision of when to stop searching for survivors?

COLLINS: That's not a nice easy equation that you can plug into variables and come to an answer. It has to do with the time that has passed by, what we find today, the amount of coverage that we have had today, and we will add all of those variables up, and try to make an experienced, factual judgment decision on where we go.

QUESTION: At this point, it is still officially a search and rescue?

COLLINS: That's correct.

QUESTION: Given the time, you are talking about the time, and talking about the water temperatures, is it realistic to think that a search and rescue can proceed throughout the rest of the day? or is this the kind of thing you will shift to a recovery before sunsets today?

COLLINS: We haven't made that judgment yet. We anticipate, as our current plans, and as we prepared all our people and our platforms conducting this effort, we have prepared them for a full day of search-and-rescue activity. That's our attention at this point in time.

QUESTION: Sir, as you know, there is a news report circulating on the Associated Press and some of the newspapers, some sort of a grand jury investigation into Alaska Airlines, on maintenance procedures and records keeping. Can you comment on that report being circulated right now?

WEAVER: There is an investigation going on by the sources you mentioned. However, we don't believe that they are anywhere related at all to that incident last night.

QUESTION: We heard a lot about the horizontal aspect of the stabilizer. A lot of people are saying they haven't heard of this problem before in this type of aircraft. Can you touch on how unusual this is if in fact this was the problem?

WEAVER: I think it's too premature really to report on or comment on the fact that it may be a horizontal stabilizer problem that affected this aircraft yesterday.

QUESTION: If a pilot radios and says: I am having problems with stabilizer trim, what's game plan number two?

WEAVER: Game plan number two for the crew? Well, they have emergency procedures, a checklist that they go through, that they are trained on these kind of procedures, that if the horizontal stabilizer trim becomes ineffective or no longer functioning, they have check lists and emergency procedures, and/or regular procedures that run them through what to do and how to control the airplane.

Again, I would really not like to get into comment.

QUESTION: Is your CEO up here?

WEAVER: I think John Kelly may come over today. He is in L.A. right now at the Radisson I believe. He will be having a press conference at 10:00.

QUESTION: Just in general, with the vertical or horizontal stabilizers. are there backup system in play or is it strictly a solo system? How does that work in general?

ROBERTSON: If I may, many of these questions being addressed to this representative with Alaska Airlines are more properly addressed to the National Transportation Safety Board, once we get further into the investigation. And as I mentioned, this afternoon we will begin with our press opportunities to more fully get into some of these details. And I just would suggest that in terms of the investigative side of this particular press briefing, that we need to hold off on many of those questions.


COLLINS: I don't have any specifics. I defer comments upon victims and defer to medical authorities.


COLLINS: I don't have specific times with me. We can provide that information. I don't have that with me.

QUESTION: Local fisherman, and what role do the local fisherman and the squid boats play now?

COLLINS: Again, I don't have the rescue vessel that did in fact rescue -- or recover those victims. We can provide that information. We have that information. We can provide that to you. Let me state that there is, again, a wide, wide array from the National Park Service vessels, Baywatch vessel, local fisherman, United States considerable United States Navy assets that had been involved. We can delineate what was found when and by whom through the joint information center.

QUESTION: Local fishing boats to pickup body parts, though, or are you calling -- having them hold on to them until Coast Guard cutters can get there?

COLLINS: George, any comment on that specifics?

CAPT. GEORGE WRIGHT, U.S. COAST GUARD: It -- it's our intention to have Coast Guard cutters perform that function. That's what we want -- what we want to do, and in fact, you know, you asked about the concern all the way around. We are deeply concerned about this tragedy and we are also concerned about the impact that this type of thing has upon the people out there on search and rescue missions. So we are trying to keep it done by Coast Guard cutters, if we can.

QUESTION: Can somebody give us a ballpark figure of how many people are involved in the search and rescue?

COLLINS: I can give you a ballpark. It is over 300 Coast Guard members. And again, this is a ballpark, and we give you specific data, through the day. But clearly, over 300 -- well over 300 Coast Guard people on the various patrol boats, small boats, larger vessels, and a greater -- equal or a greater number of Navy. Of course, they have larger vessels with greater manning.

We can give you those specifics -- and Air Force and Navy aircraft, helicopters and fixed wing, Coast Guard also had a fixed wing, a C-130. But we can detail, again, all the participants and total numbers, and we will have that available through the information center.

QUESTION: Has anybody interviewed the eyewitness, the ranger I believe, who saw the plane go down? and what information he might have been able to impart?

COLLINS: That is clearly not part of the search-and-rescue effort to interview those other than, as a reporting source. And I don't want to speak for the National Transportation Safety Board.

QUESTION: Can anybody tell us what the eyewitness told you guys? or called, when they called about the plane? COLLINS: The park ranger identified that he saw a plane go down in a general vicinity, and we proceeded to investigate. Any more details than that. George was on scene at the time -- in the command center at the time.

WRIGHT: Yes. We were advised that there was a plane crash. And our immediate response was -- was go respond to that for search and rescue. Seconds count. And we certainly did not have time to completely debrief, nor would it be our intent to debrief other than know, that there's been a tragedy and we have got to get out there as fast as we can?



QUESTION: Nose down?


WRIGHT: Anacapa Island.

QUESTION: What did he say?

WRIGHT: I didn't take the call directly myself, to my understanding, the plane has gone down. That's the information we had, and we launched all assets for the massive response based on that information. As far as what he exactly said, that will be an investigative matter.

QUESTION: Did he say the plane nose dived?

QUESTION: For the NTSB, was LAX the only option that was discussed. Was there talk about possible landing at Santa Barbara at the facility here?

ROBERTSON: Again, we will be getting into some of these issues later on in the day. But for right now, it was our understanding this press briefing was to be focused on search and rescue. And we are just here to let you know that we are at work, and that we will be providing more details later in the day.

QUESTION: Sir, are there plans for the family members to come to the recovery site?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you repeat that question?

QUESTION: Are there plans for the family members to come to the recovery site?

WEAVER: No, there's no plans at this time for that.

QUESTION: Mr. Weaver, can we follow up on that question? Do you know definitively where this pilot was going after he radioed that he had problems? Was he indeed headed back to LAX? were any other airports considered in this area for a possible emergency landing? Where was this guy going?

WEAVER: Again, I think that we'll get into that this afternoon when the NTSB's had their time to evaluate the information and respond then.

QUESTION: Mr. Weaver, was this plane equipped with the most sophisticated type of black box?

WEAVER: As far as I know, yes. In terms of most sophisticated, are you saying -- this particular flight data recorder, I believe, has 48 parameters it reports on. Don't hold me to that, but I think that's generally -- it's a 1992 aircraft.

QUESTION: You haven't updated the black box since then, so it's the blacks box that came with the aircraft?

WEAVER: I couldn't confirm that, no.

QUESTION: Do we know what time the pinging was detected?

COLLINS: No, but we can provide you with that information when it's reported to us. I don't have that with me.


QUESTION: What attempt (OFF-MIKE) recovery of the black boxes, if any?

COLLINS: The question again, please?

QUESTION: What affect would the water depth have on how quickly you can recover the black boxes?

COLLINS: Well, that's something that we'll have to address with the salvage experts as we get into that phase.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) withstanding that impact?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) last communication and the report of the accident?

ROBERTSON: If we could, are there any additional questions -- are there any questions related to the actual search-and-rescue operations. Again, we're trying...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) involved with the search and rescue, last night?

COLLINS: Please repeat?

QUESTION; How many local fishing boats or other local craft were involved in this search and rescue, last night?

WRIGHT: I can tell you tell you that there was a lot. I don't have an exact number. I watched vessels come up to the dock that were moving debris collected from the crash site. I saw a tow boat, salvage vessel and many other vessels throughout the night. So, it was just an incredible response from the -- both the private and commercial and military craft out there. It was really astounding.

COLLINS: Let me -- let me answer the question here. I think the earlier question was, what was the time between notification and the dispatch of recourses, is that the question?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) the last communication of the pilot and the report of (OFF-MIKE).

COLLINS: I don't know the answer to that question. That would be something that will come out, I'm sure, in the investigatory process. We received the initial notification of the downed aircraft from the park ranger at 4:26, yesterday afternoon. At 4:27 we issued an urgent marine broadcast to all boaters in the area to come to assist in that position. We diverted a Coast Guard HA-65 helicopter that's homebased in the tenant (ph) on the LAX, and that was -- that was immediately diverted. We launched -- at that same time a launch, a C130 from our fixed-wing base in Sacramento, and at 4:30 launched small boats from Station Channel Island in the vicinity, here, a little bit north up the coast, and the point crew was underway at 4:31. The point I'm trying to get to you, there was an immediate -- immediate reaction, and others -- notification of the Navy and so forth and very, very quick response from those assets as well.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) any divers go in the water today?

COLLINS: We haven't moved into that phase, and that's still to be determined, when, where, how and so forth.

QUESTION: Admiral, what about -- is there any possibility of getting a media photo pool either this morning or later today.

ROBERTSON: If I could address that, I would like to address that after press briefing. We'll talk about that, as well as the joint information center. Are there any other questions for any of the members on the stage at this time having to do with the search and rescue event?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) during the day?


QUESTION: Are you going to have -- bring -- (OFF-MIKE)

ROBERTSON: Yes, we will. And again, we'll have that available. I will discuss that with all of you after we're finished with the briefing.

QUESTION: And can you tell anything about the condition of the plane based on the (OFF-MIKE) covered?

ROBERTSON: Again, are there any other questions? If we could, please, we'd like to stick with the issue of search-and-rescue and, again, the NTSB is now on scene, and any issues relating to -- and I'm really sorry to say this, again, but any of the issues relating to investigation. There will be an availability. There is a point of contact with the NTSB to talk about the investigative issues.

QUESTION: One more (OFF-MIKE) question, if you could, just tell us once again, recap, as we speak and in the next few hours what do we have out there, what will come, if you could just recap please.

COLLINS: Yes. We have the Coast Guard cutter Hamilton that is on-scene commander, we have numerous helicopters, patrol boats and small boats that will all be scouring that area. You've got to realize this is a three-by-five area, three miles by five area, and there's a limit in terms of how much aircraft you can put in that limited space from a safety perspective, air safety perspective as you control the -- control the search, and obviously our -- one of our major concerns is the safety for all the participating search units, as well as the outcome of the search itself.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Admiral, any debris coming on shore yet that you're hearing about?

COLLINS: We have, to the best of knowledge as of 6:00, this morning, we didn't have reports of any debris coming ashore at this point.

QUESTION: Admiral, can you confirm that the park ranger reported the initial impact created a wave, a splash 200 feet high?

COLLINS: I can't comment on that specifics.

ROBERTSON: Again, thank you for your time, this morning. We will provide additional media availabilities. As I said, the NTSB will be available later on this afternoon. If you would like to stay behind, I would like to provide some additional information to you.

QUESTION: Can we get some spellings of names?

ROBERTSON: Yes, we can help you out with that.

KAGAN: We've been listening to a live news conference coming to us from Port Hueneme, officials from the Coast Guard, from Alaska Airlines and from the NTSB bringing us the latest on the crash and the search and rescue mission following flight -- Alaska Flight 261. The flight was on its way from Puerto Vallarta to San Francisco, yesterday afternoon, when it crashed off the coast of Oxnard, California.

The Coast Guard telling us this morning this is still a search- and-rescue mission and it will remain so for at least throughout the day. So far they have found 12 boxes full of debris from the aircraft. Also, there have been a number of victims that have been taken from the water, including one infant, one adult male and two adult females, as the Coast Guard continues to look through an area that is three miles by five miles wide.

Our Greg LaMotte is covering the news conference. He is with us from Port Hueneme. Greg, an encouraging note there, somewhat encouraging, as the Coast Guard said they have found or are hearing some pinging from the flight data recorders.

Greg, can you hear us?

LAMOTTE: ... from the flight data recorder and indicated that they are zeroing in on that flight data recorder, and obviously that is something that they are very anxious to get their hands on to find out exactly what was going on mechanically with that plane. The pilot of the plane talked about having some problems with a stabilizer, something that goes on the back of the plane that allows the nose to go up and down. The flight data recorder will give them more information about what exactly happened with that piece of machinery.

Also today they said that there are hundreds, literally hundreds of people involved in the search, some 300 people from the Coast Guard, hundreds more from the U.S. Navy. They brought in a frigate and a destroyer. There's small boats, patrol boats, large ships involved. They have found no survivors, but they are not giving up their search. They say they will continue to do so until they decide that there is no reason to search any longer.

They flew over the debris, a field, they said, that covered some 15 miles. They say they will continue their search today. As you said, they found about 12 boxes, as was described, of debris from the aircraft, including seating material and fuselage. Recovered victims include an infant, and adult and two adult females. The search continuing today with the large ships from the U.S. Navy, the frigate and the destroyer.

They also indicated that no diving has taken place, divers going into the water to presumably search for wreckage and/or victims. No divers have gone into the water and they said there's no indication today that any divers will go in the water.

They're working water, by the way, of swells of about six feet, but they say that the weather conditions are generally good for their search efforts.

They have maintained their contact with the families of the victims in this case. The CEO, the head of Alaska Airlines, is in Los Angeles apparently, and indicated that he may be coming here later this afternoon to give his own news conference.

KAGAN: Greg LaMotte, bringing us the latest from Port Hueneme. We should mention that there were 88 people on board Flight 261 making their way from Puerto Vallarta up to the San Francisco area.


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