America's bloodiest day
Flight data, voice recorders found at Pentagon
WASHINGTON Searchers early today found the flight data and cockpit voice recorders from the hijacked plane that flew into the Pentagon and exploded three days earlier, Department of Defense officials said.
The two "black boxes," crucial to uncovering details about the doomed flight's last moments, were recovered at about 4 a.m., said Army Lt. Col. George Rhynedance, a Pentagon spokesman.
Rhynedance said the recorders were in the possession of the FBI, and that officials from the National Transportation Safety Board were providing technical assistance in reading any data they contain.
Dick Bridges, deputy manager for Arlington County, Va., said the voice recorder was damaged on the outside and the flight data recorder was charred. But he said the FBI still was confident the data can be recovered from both devices.
Bridges said the recorders were found "right where the plane came into the building."
Earlier, a fire that flared in the debris had set back search efforts following the crash of American Airlines Flight 77. Government authorities said 190 people a combination of military and civilian employees on the ground and the passengers in the plane were believed to have died.
Late yesterday, rescuers worked to shore up unsteady parts of the building but flames erupted. The flare-up sent black smoke billowing hundreds of feet into the air over Washington.
Firefighters put out the blaze within 20 minutes. Authorities safely evacuated rescue workers who were clearing away debris inside the building, said Capt. Scott Graham, head of the Montgomery County, Md., search and rescue squad.
"This is just a minor time setback," Graham said.
Human remains pulled from the Pentagon were being taken to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to be identified. The first two helicopters carrying remains arrived at the base yesterday afternoon, a base spokesman said.
Members of Congress at the military office complex to watch the recovery effort yesterday said they were told by rescue officials that some of the fuselage of the airplane that slammed into the building remains intact in the wreckage.
"It hits you right in the pit of your stomach," Rep. Ken Lucas, D-Ky., said of the gaping hole in the building's side.