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CNN Today

Alaska Airlines Flight 261: Search Operations Continue as Coast Guard Calls Off Private Boaters

Aired February 2, 2000 - 1:32 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Search operations continue off the California coast. Here's CNN's Greg LaMotte with more about that -- Greg.

GREG LAMOTTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the U.S. Navy is bringing in more firepower in an effort to, among other things, find and retrieve the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder from Alaska Airlines Flight 261. The USS Cleveland will act as the main support ship for this operation. In addition, a sonar ship is being brought in that's also capable of retrieving the two so-called black boxes with remote-controlled equipment. The USS Fife, a destroyer; the USS Jarrett, a frigate; and the USNS Sioux are part of the operation as well.

Now, early on, private boats were actively involved in the search for survivors and wreckage from Alaska Airlines Flight 261. Today, the coast guard ordered those boats back to port after extending the secure area around the wreckage from eight miles to 22 miles. The flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder are believed to be in about 700 feet of water. That definitely is deep, but the U.S. navy has in the past had salvage operations that involved going as far down as four to 5,000 feet to retrieve various things, and so 700 to 800 feet would certainly seem doable for the U.S. Navy.

The Navy reported hearing pinging on the ocean floor, which is the signature of those recording devices. But as it stands right now, the U.S. Coast Guard has ordered all the private boats that were part of the rescue and recovery effort early on on Monday afternoon out of the area, and now it would appear that search and recovery efforts are going to go on. As we understand it, the Coast Guard will announce that they are now abandoning their search-and-rescue mission -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Greg LaMotte in Oxnard, California.

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