09/15/2001
Black Box Found In Pennsylvania.
Law enforcement personnel, clad in yellow and white protective suits, are scouring the crash site in Pennsylvania for human remains and evidence that may help investigators determine why a hijacked jetliner slammed into a field.

In what could be the first break in the investigation, authorities announced Thursday that they have recovered the flight data recorder from the crash scene.

An FBI agent says the recorder was found in the late afternoon in the eight-foot-deep crater caused by the crash. The "black box" will be analyzed by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Experts believe that this disaster scene is the one that offers the best chance of being able to recover working voice and flight data recorders.

FBI officials leading the investigation said it could take weeks to recover everything from the site where United Airlines Flight 93, killing all 45 people aboard.

Investigators at first could find hardly anything that was bigger than the size of a phone book. But soon a large piece of metal was found, believed to be part of an engine.

Meanwhile, federal investigators said on Thursday they could not rule out the possibility that the United jet was shot down.

"We have not ruled out that," FBI agent Bill Crowley told a news conference when asked about reports that a U.S. fighter jet may have fired on the hijacked Boeing 757. "We haven't ruled out anything yet."

"It's kind of a loaded question. We're basically at the infancy (of the investigation)," Crowley added. "We haven't certainly come to that conclusion either."

Pennsylvania state police officials said on Thursday debris from the plane had been found up to 8 miles away in a residential community — where local media have quoted residents as speaking of a second plane in the area and burning debris falling from the sky.

Federal officials believe hijackers planned to crash the plane into the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland or a target in Washington.

The Defense Department on Tuesday vigorously denied reports suggesting the U.S. military could have downed the hijacked flight in an effort to prevent it from reaching a target, perhaps in Washington.

The flight was heading to San Francisco from Newark, N.J., when it veered off course over northeastern Ohio and headed back southeast toward Pittsburgh. It crashed 80 miles southeast of that city. Flight 93 was the only aircraft not to have killed anyone on the ground.

A transcript of another recording of the plane's final moments has reportedly surfaced.

CNN says it has obtained a partial transcript of chatter from the plane recorded by air traffic controllers as the jetliner approached Cleveland. The network said tower workers heard someone in the cockpit shout, "Get out of here," through an open microphone.

A second transmission from the plane is heard amid sounds of scuffling with someone again yelling, "Get out of here."

Next to be heard is a voice saying:

"There is a bomb on board. This is the captain speaking. Remain in your seat. There is a bomb on board. Stay quiet. We are meeting with their demands. We are returning to the airport."

CNN said an unidentified source who heard the tape claimed that transmission was of a voice speaking in broken English. The microphone then went dead, CNN reported.

United spokeswoman Liz Meagher had no comment on the transcript.

Just before United Flight 93 crashed, some of the passengers learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center and may have tried to overpower their hijackers and keep the jetliner from hitting another landmark.

Authorities have not disclosed whether there was a struggle aboard the plane, and have not said what caused the airliner carrying 45 people to plunge into a Pennsylvania field.

But some of the victims telephoned relatives from the plane and said that they had resolved to wrest control of the flight back from their captors.

"It sure wasn't going to go down in rural Pennsylvania. This wasn't the target; the target was Washington, D.C.," said Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa. "Somebody made a heroic effort to keep the plane from hitting a populated area."

He added: "I would conclude there was a struggle and a heroic individual decided 'I'm going to die anyway, I might as well bring the plane down here.' "

During the flight, other passengers screamed and shouted through cell phones to share final words with their loved ones. Not Thomas Burnett, a 38-year-old business executive from California, who seemed unshakable from his first call.

"He said, 'I'm on the airplane, the airplane that's been hijacked, and they've already knifed a guy. They're saying they have a bomb. Please call the authorities,' " his wife said.

She called 911, who patched her through to the FBI. She was on the phone with agents when his second call came.

"I told him in the second call about the World Trade Center and he was very curious about that and started asking questions. He wanted any information that I had to help him," she said.

By the third phone call, "I could tell that he was formulating a plan and trying to figure out what to do next," she said. "You could tell that he was gathering information and trying to put the puzzle together."

In his last call, Burnett said he and some other passengers had decided to make a move. "I told him to please sit down and not draw attention to himself and he said no. He said no," Deena Burnett said, shaking her head with a half-smile.

Deena Burnett is sure her husband had something to do with the fact that with this plane, at least, no one on the ground was hurt.

"We may never know exactly how many helped him or exactly what they did, but I have no doubt that airplane was bound for some landmark and that whatever Tom did and whatever the guys who helped him did they saved many more lives," she said.

"And I'm so proud of him and so grateful," she said, breaking off to choke back a sob.

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