Crews find voice recorder from Pennsylvania crash

Saturday, September 15th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SOMERSET, Pa. – The cockpit voice recorder from the hijacked United flight that crashed in western Pennsylvania was found Friday and sent to Washington for analysis.

Search crews found the "black box" at about 8:30 p.m. some 25 feet deep in the crash site crater, FBI spokeswoman Linda Vizi said. It was sent to the National Transportation Safety Board in Washington.

FBI spokesman Bill Crowley said the recorder appears to be "in fairly good shape," citing descriptions by those who found it. The recorder, which is designed to capture at least the last 30 minutes of cockpit conversation, could provide more detail about what happened on board United Flight 93.

The plane's other black box, the flight data recorder, was found Thursday.

The Boeing 757 went down 10 miles from here, near rural Shanksville, after leaving Newark, N.J., for San Francisco. Radar showed the plane on route and heading over Cleveland when it abruptly turned back east, began losing altitude and flying erratically toward Maryland before it crashed.

Cell phone calls made by passengers to relatives before the crash suggested they planned to wrest control of the jet from the hijackers and prevent the plane from becoming a missile like the ones that toppled the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon.

Some have speculated that the hijackers planned to target Camp David, Md., the Capitol or even the White House.

In a tribute Friday night that brought friends and relatives of the dead to tears, Gov. Tom Ridge called some of the passengers heroes for battling their captors.

"The passengers on that plane decided to fight back their hijackers," Ridge said at a vigil attended by thousands. "They undoubtedly saved hundreds, if not thousands, of lives in the process. They sacrificed themselves for others – the ultimate sacrifice."

"What appears to be a charred, smoldering hole in the ground is truly and really a monument to heroism," he said.

About 80 friends and relatives, none who spoke at the service, were escorted by police and Red Cross workers past a crowd estimated at 3,000 to attend the vigil. Many cried as they waved candles and flags while singing "God Bless America."

Earlier, volunteers at the crash site led a prayer service. Heeding President Bush's call for a national day of prayer, Salvation Army and Red Cross workers prayed and sang "Amazing Grace."