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Special Event

NTSB Holds Preliminary News Conference on Plane Crash Killing Missouri Gov. Carnahan

Aired October 17, 2000 - 2:09 p.m. ET

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

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to take you to Hillsboro, Missouri where the National Transportation Safety Board is conducting a news conference on the crash that took the life of Missouri's governor, his son and a top aide.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

CAROL CARMODY, NTSB: ... almost always we come up with a probable cause -- almost always.

QUESTION: In this case you feel confident?

CARMODY: Oh, I'm confident we will. It will take us some time. This doesn't happen quickly because we are very thorough. We look at everything. We do an exhaustive analysis of all aspects. So it's not something we come up with in a day or a week in a month, but we will spend the time needed to get to the bottom of it, and we do that.

QUESTION: Carol, can you talk about -- you said you find numerous pieces that are small. These are the plane or are you talking about the remains?

CARMODY: The plane. I'm talking about the aircraft, yes.

QUESTION: Have the remains of the individuals been removed yet?

CARMODY: That process is under way now.

QUESTION: How long do you think that could take?

CARMODY: Well, I would imagine a couple of days. Hard to say. But that is the top priority and they're going to the St. Louis County medical examiner. That's Dr. Mary Case. Her office is in charge of the identification, and that is ongoing.

QUESTION: How come so long? How come you said it would take that long?

CARMODY: I don't that it will or won't, I'm just saying it's a difficult recovery process. It's under way today. That's the top priority. Of the people I've talked to that are doing it said it could go well go into tomorrow. So that's what... QUESTION: Is the fact that the pieces are scattered in so many different places, that they're so small, can you glean any information from the type of crash or anything from that?

CARMODY: At this time that would be very preliminary. We cannot. One of our investigators is, I believe, this afternoon going up in a helicopter so that he can get a view from above of what kind of breakage of trees there was, what kind of damage, perhaps make some preliminary judgment as to how the aircraft went into the woods. So that sort of thing will be very useful -- take some pictures. But at this point, no.

QUESTION: How large is your debris field, if you can estimate in square mileage or anything like that?

CARMODY: I am a terrible person at making estimates like that. Anybody have a guess you want to hazard in terms of the spread? No, it's -- we haven't even identified it all yet so I would just say it's extensive. And it's not all visible because you have to walk all over the hills and through the woods to see it.

QUESTION: Is there a big burned area, Carol?

CARMODY: I did not see any, I did not see any.

QUESTION: Are you able to get any machinery, motorcycles, anything up there to help with this process, or is it just on foot?

CARMODY: It's on foot. It's considerably in from a road. There are, of course, vehicles on the road, but the investigators and the recovery teams are going in on foot in groups. We're being extremely careful with all aspects of the wreckage, as we always are, to be very careful, first, to identify it, to chart it, to note it and to be very, very careful when we do remove it so there's no confusion or question about what was where.

(CROSSTALK)

CARMODY: Excuse me.

QUESTION: Are there any people (OFF-MIKE)?

CARMODY: I'm sorry, I didn't hear you.

QUESTION: Are there any people on the aircraft that are unidentifiable at this time?

CARMODY: I don't believe anybody has identified them yet.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) spread out on a hills, in valleys, both? I mean, describe the depth of range where you were climbing.

CARMODY: Well, as we left the road, we walked a ways into the woods and then downward. So almost a gully or a place. That's what we saw. As I say, it's scattered around, so it could be in other areas as well. But the ground was steep. It was quite steep going downhill, and that's where some of the people slipped and fell going in.

QUESTION: Is it possible to say which way the plane was coming from?

CARMODY: Not at this time, no. That's one of the reasons our investigator wanted to go up in the helicopter, to get a vision. And also, it will take some identification of where the parts are to see how the plane went into the woods. I'm not going to try and do the investigators' work for them. There's a long road ahead and they'll be thorough about it.

QUESTION: Were the bodies or the parts of the bodies in a fuselage? Or where were they?

CARMODY: I didn't see any of those.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll take one more question.

QUESTION: Is it unusual for small planes like this to be allowed to fly? And what are the conditions that they were talking about last night? Rain, fog?

CARMODY: The pilot was flying under an IFR, which is instrument flight rules. He had a multi-engine instrument rating. He had filed a flight plan. So it was not -- there was nothing inappropriate or inconsistent about the process. We're still checking to see what the actual weather was and what sort of information the pilot received and other things like that. So as a say, this is one of the things we're looking at, but we always do. That is a very routine line of inquiry.

That's really all we have for now, but we will notify you of any further briefings tomorrow and we will be in touch at that time. Thank you for your attention.

WATERS: All right, Carol Carmody of the National Transportation Safety Board answering preliminary questions about the crash of a small plane carrying the governor of Missouri, his son, who apparently was at the controls, and a top aide to a fund-raiser last evening. The plane went down in a wooded area near Hillsboro, Missouri where the recovery process is under way. And bodies are being recovered today for identification.

Gary Tuchman, who is covering the story, is on the line with us here.

Can you give us an idea of why the recovery effort apparently is so difficult and why it's going to take so long, Gary?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's one of the things that Carol Carmody told us initially when the news conference started, is that the aircraft is extremely broken up. It was a very violent accident. Witnesses say the plane exploded. And all the pieces are in very small, and including the remains, unfortunately. It's hard to say that, but it's true. It's what the National Transportation Safety Board has been saying all day. They believe -- and this is a quote from Carol Carmody -- "it will take a couple of days to recover the remains." They had already recovered some of the remains by early this morning.

But they do say the priority is the recovery of the remains, but it's very steep and rocky and slippery. We're 30 miles south of St. Louis in a very rural, isolated area. Earlier on, about an hour after this accident happened, rescuers...

(AUDIO GAP)

... initially and they had to leave because it was such a dangerous place to be at night. They came back in the morning. And already Carol Carmody was...

(AUDIO GAP)

... had been slipping in that area.

Once again, this plane crashed at about 7:30 central time last night. The governor of the state of Missouri, only two and a half months left in his term, was going for a six-year U.S. Senate term, was hopeful he would win. Instead, he was in an airplane going to a campaign stop. His son was flying the plane. One of their top aides was in the plane with them. The plane crashed. All three of them lost their lives.

The NTSB says it will take at least...

(AUDIO GAP)

... probably cause about this plane crash, but they say they'll continue working out here because the most important priority right now is the recovery of the remains.

Lou, back to you.

WATERS: All right, Gary Tuchman from Hillsboro, Missouri. We'll continue following that story.

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