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CNN Today

Friends and Family Members View Wreckage of Alaska Airlines Flight 261

Aired January 31, 2001 - 4:42 p.m. ET

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

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Relatives of the 88 people who died on Alaska Airlines Flight 261 are marking the one-year anniversary of the crash with some emotional memorials. Mourners held a service yesterday to bury a casket with remains that could not be identified: 88 doves were released at the end of the ceremony to signify the spirits of those who where lost. A granite slab marks the gravesite.

Some friends and family members viewed the wreckage of the plane earlier today. Some traveled by boat to the ocean crash site.

And as we told you, friends and family saw the wreckage themselves today. We now are receiving pictures of that wreckage for the very first time.

CNN's Charles Feldman joins us now from Los Angeles with the latest on that -- Charles.

CHARLES FELDMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joie, what you're looking at are pictures inside a hangar at Port Hueneme in Southern California. And this is the wreckage -- what was recovered, that is -- of the Alaska Airlines Flight 261 that went down a year ago today off the coast of Southern California on a flight from Mexico to San Francisco and then onto Seattle -- 88 people died on that aircraft.

This was -- was -- an MD-83 twin engine jetliner. You can get a sense by looking at these pictures what an extraordinary task it was to retrieve this from the ocean depths to -- in order to investigate the cause of the crash. And I should tell you, by the way, that as of now there is no official determination as to the probable cause.

The NTSB -- the National Transportation Safety Board -- is expected within the next few months to issue that, although they have been zeroing in on a part of the horizontal stabilizer on that aircraft. That's the part that would help the nose pitch up and down, and they're looking at whether or not a part may have weakened or broken off. And that would have been the cause of that crash.

But you can see the task that was at hand for investigators, trying to retrieve all of this wreckage and then trying to assemble it in a cohesive and coherent way so as they could tell what happened to that aircraft.

It's a horrific sight to see this. In some cases, they're more successful and they're able to actually recreate the entire airplane. They did that, almost did that with the TWA 747 that crashed a few years back after exploding off of New York's coast.

But this is an extraordinary scene, to see the pieces of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 -- Joie.

CHEN: CNN's Charles Feldman reporting to us from our Los Angeles bureau and following up on those pictures we're just getting in of the Alaska Air, or the remains of the Alaska Air crash. That was Flight 261 a year ago today.

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