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CNN Today

Alaska Airlines Flight 261: Naval Vessels Continue to Scan Crash Site for Cockpit Data Recorder

Aired February 3, 2000 - 2:32 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: The cockpit voice recorder from Alaska Airlines Flight 261 is now in Washington. Investigators hope it will reveal the exact cause of Monday's crash off Southern California. Some relatives of the victims are heading to the crash scene today. They will visit a beach near where the plane nose-dived into the Pacific.

CNN's Jim Hill is reporting on the search-and-rescue mission. He is on Anacapa Island off the California coast -- Jim.

JIM HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anacapa Island is 11 miles off the coast of Southern California.

The picture that you can see behind me through a special high powered lens from Anacapa Island can reveal, about two and a half miles off the island -- this would be in between the mainland and the island of Anacapa -- the recovery vessel kelly Chouest. This is the orange-hulled vessel that you can see. This vessel, we believe, is anchored in about 900 feet of water, more or less directly over the crash site where the plane went down on Monday.

Now, this vessel has been anchored here all morning. If you look off a little bit to the right through this special high-powered lens, you will notice a second vessel. This is the U.S. Navy ship Sioux.

Now, this has been involved in the activity which has generally been called "mowing the lawn." This vessel is towing a sensing device, perhaps a side-scanning sonar, back and forth in an east-west direction all morning long, repeating it's course back and forth as it goes.

Now, this sonar -- side-scanning sonar can detect inconsistencies in the bottom in attempts to find the remaining "black box," that being the flight data recorder.

Now, the pinger, of course, as we have reported, has been located, but apparently the pinger is separated from the data recorder itself. Now this is the same area in which the cockpit voice recorder was found in about 700 feet of water.

The underwater topography here can best be described as an underwater canyon in between Anacapa Island and the mainland of Southern California. It is in this canyon area, so to speak, that the plane is believed to be resting, perhaps upside down after crashing on Monday.

Now, this activity of "mowing the lawn" has been going on for several hours now since we've been on the island. The Kelly Chouest, the recovery vessel, has been anchored in the same spot. Meanwhile, there are two U.S. Coast Guard cutters, the Conifer and the Steadfast, which have been keeping all traffic out of this area while this procedure takes place, and another Navy vessel is off to the side, also keeping the marine traffic out of the area.

So, at this point, the "mowing the lawn" continues in an effort to find the remaining "black box," the cockpit voice -- or rather the flight data recorder.

I'm Jim Hill, reporting live off the California coast.

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