Gulf Air crash debris surfaces

Friday, August 25th 2000, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

MINA SALMAN PORT, Bahrain – A man's black shoe, a plastic sandal and bits of yellow foam padding bobbed Thursday in the waters off this tiny island nation, where families were burying loved ones a day after Gulf Air Flight 072 crashed, killing all 143 aboard.

Bahraini authorities and U.S. Navy divers based in the gulf recovered both "black boxes" – the flight data and voice cockpit recorders – near where the plane slammed into shallow water off Bahrain's shore. Neither box appeared damaged, according to Bahrain civil defense chief James Windsor, who received the voice cockpit recorder Thursday from U.S. Navy divers who brought it to shore.

Authorities were awaiting the arrival of experts from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board for help with the Bahraini-led investigation. Six French government experts and an Airbus Industries representative flew in Thursday evening.

Ali Ahmedi, a spokesman and an acting vice president for Gulf Air, said it was too early to speculate on what caused the plane to crash as it circled the airport before coming in to land. But he said there was no indication that the pilot was anticipating an emergency landing.

"The pilot did not make any kind of statements of problems in the plane," Mr. Ahmedi said.

Transportation Minister Sheik Ali bin Khalifa Al Khalifa said he was hopeful the black boxes would provide some clues. "Any news, anything out of it would be a help," he said.

Evidence of that destruction lay off Bahrain on Thursday. In waters often less than 10 feet deep, shadowy bits of wing and fuselage, mostly in small pieces, were resting on the sandy sea floor.

Most traces of the 143 victims were collected in the hours after the Cairo-to-Bahrain flight crashed Wednesday evening. Luggage and clothing that floated to the surface were removed so they wouldn't be swept away with the tides.

Like the plane, many of the bodies were shattered, and relatives struggled to identify loved ones so they could claim their remains for burial.

"This is the worst day of my life. I lost a part of me," said Khalifa al-Hashil, 45, of Saudi Arabia. His 35-year-old brother died in the crash.

Gulf Air said 135 passengers and eight crew members were on board. They included 64 Egyptians, 36 Bahrainis, 12 Saudi Arabians, nine Palestinians, six from the United Arab Emirates, three Chinese, two British, two Omanis and one each from the United States, Canada, Kuwait, Sudan, Australia, the Philippines, Poland, India and Morocco.

The American killed in the crash was 31-year-old Seth J. Foti, a diplomatic courier carrying classified information in yellow pouches, the State Department said.

Mr. Foti had joined the service 14 months ago, spokesman Richard Boucher said.


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