Workers uncover more human remains at overlooked underground sites at World Trade Center

Monday, October 23rd 2006, 6:11 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) Searchers who have yet to unearth more than half the underground sites apparently overlooked during the initial excavation of ground zero have uncovered more than 100 pieces of human remains believed to belong to September 11th victims.

The medical examiner's office said 18 new pieces were found Sunday, adding to a yield ranging from tiny fragments to recognizable bones from skulls, torsos, feet and hands, some as large as whole arm and leg bones.

Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler, who is overseeing the recovery effort, said officials had identified additional manholes and utility cavities at the World Trade Center site that need to be examined.

The team of searchers expects to burrow into at least 12 subterranean areas in coming days. About five have been excavated.

``They will go through every grain, every piece of material carefully, and sift through it,'' Skyler said.

The underground pockets are located along the western edge of the 16 acre lower Manhattan site, underneath a service road built in March of 2002 to free up traffic on a major thruway that had been closed since the attacks.

However, some below ground cavities that had been used for utility and infrastructure purposes were paved over without being searched for remains. Days ago, crews doing routine work at the site opened a manhole and discovered human bones, setting off an expedition for other remains.

Skyler said the city will focus on finding remains before it reviews how the initial search was handled. He said construction at ground zero did not need to be halted to accommodate the search, but that officials would address the need if it arises.

Some September 11th families, however, called for the rebuilding to stop until the recovery is finished.

``Their actions say remains are not a priority, they're secondary to the rebuilding,'' said Charles Wolf, who lost his wife and has never received any of her identified remains. ``This is bringing up all the gnawing, gut wrenching stuff inside us again.''

The latest remains found are not the first to turn up unexpectedly since the cleanup officially concluded in 2002. Hundreds of bone fragments recently were found on the roof of a nearby skyscraper that was badly damaged in the attack and had been condemned.

The active search for the dead ended after a massive cleanup of 1.5 million tons of debris. About 20,000 pieces of human remains were found, but the DNA in thousands of those pieces was too damaged by heat, humidity and time to yield matches in the many tests forensic scientists have tried over the years.

More than 40 percent of the 2,749 September 11th victims in New York have never been identified.