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Air Force Spokesman Holds Press Conference About C-23 Crash

Aired March 4, 2001 - 9:01 a.m. ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: In Unadilla, Georgia, this morning, they are beginning the investigation into the crash of a Air National Guard C-23 Sherpa. A briefing is about to begin right this moment. You are about to hear from Colonel Dan Woodward, commander of the 78th Support Group, Robins Air Force Base, as he briefs reporters.

COL. DAN WOODWARD, U.S. AIR FORCE: Good morning, I'm Colonel Dan Woodward. I'm the 78th Support Group Commander. I'm stationed at Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, Warner Robins, Georgia. I'm the on scene commander here.

Basically, what I can tell you is this: We have Army and Air Force personnel on-site at this time. They are working in concert with, as you can see, local law enforcement to my left here to secure the area, assess the situation, determine the best course of action from this point forward.

Basically, what we will do is go through a recovery process, but currently we're going through an assessment process. We're trying to determine what the best course of action is at this point, and then at some point down the road, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, we will begin a recovery process and then ultimately an investigation process.

The way this will take place as far as the chain of command or who is in charge of what is this: The United States Army is going to be responsible for site security. Right now, we have joint site security between the United States Air Force and the United States Army. At about 10:00 or so, we anticipate the United States Army taking full possession of site security.

In addition, the U.S. Army is responsible for investigation. So, they will be heading up that effort when the time comes for that. The U.S. Air Force is going to be responsible for the recovery and we will begin that process at some point in the not-too-distant future.

As far as the site itself, I will give you kind of a broad description. What we have is this road that leads off to my back, heads down and basically turns into a dirt road at some probably about a mile and a half down the road.

At that point, as you would anticipate, since we've had probably about three or four inches of rain over the past 24 hours, it becomes quite muddy. At that point, we also have an entry control point and then about a mile or so, perhaps a little bit less than that, down the road, off to the right hand side is a field.

In that field, it's approximately 400 by 400 feet, is the principle portion of the wreckage, and then if you proceed down that road perhaps another quarter of a mile or so there is another debris field.

That's basically kind of a general overview of what we're facing. I will tell you that the conditions are quite difficult with regards to moving equipment in and out because, obviously, as I said, it's quite muddy and the road conditions are difficult and anything that is off-road is, of course, very difficult.

That is really the end of my briefing or my prepared remarks, and I am prepared to answer questions if you have some.

QUESTION: Could you tell us about the site itself? I mean, difficulties in getting to it and actually recovering and investigating right now. What are the conditions?

WOODWARD: Well, the conditions are -- you need to understand, of course, we have -- first of all, we have tight quarters on this road. It is extremely difficult to turn around, for example. So, when you bring heavy equipment down, we have a process whereby we have to work them through a Y pattern to get them back and turned around.

Once we get them off the road, though, it's tenuous because obviously they sink right into the mud. So, we have some platforms down there that allow us to move some heavy equipment in and out.

QUESTION: Have they recovered the flight data recorder?

WOODWARD: Sure. Let me just press on real quickly on this. As you move further down the road, though, and move off-terrain into the field area, it's a plowed field and so it is extremely difficult to move in and out of that field and we have problems getting equipment in and out of there right now.

We have some four-wheel drive vehicles, but they are not operating that well once you get off the actual roadway.

As far as the question with regards to the data recorders, we have recovered data recorders. It's important to understand, however, that these data recorders may or may not have been working at the time, and we do not know whether they contain any information that will be valuable.

QUESTION: Is that unusual, because as a general rule military aircraft don't carry the so-called black boxes?

WOODWARD: Well, I really can't comment about whether it's unusual or not because quite honestly, I'm not sure. What I can -- what I can tell you is that we have recovered recorders in this case.

QUESTION: Colonel, could you tell us about any kind of cargo on board this aircraft, any dangerous cargo, explosives? WOODWARD: We are currently, as I said, in the assessment phase right now, but we do not know, I personally do not know of any dangerous or hazardous cargo on the aircraft.

QUESTION: Colonel, could you elaborate more on the assessment, what actually will happen, and then the recovery?

WOODWARD: During the assessment phase, we are looking to determine the best course of action with regards to recovery, and quite frankly, since we have not completed the assessment process, I really have no way of explaining to you what's going to transpire during the recovery. It could vary through a variety of different possibilities. But we're still in the process of doing an assessment.

QUESTION: Colonel, can you tell us if they were in any contact with any control or air traffic control? Were they in contact with anyone?

WOODWARD: I do not have any information in that area.

QUESTION: What are the Florida contact numbers for the Army National Guard?

QUESTION: In this 400 by 400 site, what do you see there? What remains of the aircraft there?

WOODWARD: There is a wreckage site, and as you would anticipate, it's just like any other aircraft site. I mean, it's -- you see an aircraft that has crashed and I don't want to get much more descriptive than that.

QUESTION: But was -- is the debris burned...

O'BRIEN: We've been listening to Colonel Dan Woodward near the site of that crash of a C-23 Sherpa aircraft, killing 21 National Guard personnel yesterday in heavy rain. Central Georgia the location, Unadilla to be exact, near Macon, offering a little bit of information about the difficulties in conducting this investigation.

It's a very muddy field, for example. It's difficult for them to get heavy equipment but not clarifying beyond a shadow of a doubt one way or another whether there were flight data or cockpit voice recorders on that aircraft. He seemed to indicate there were recorders, unclear as to whether they were working. Clearly, if they were there and were operating that would greatly aid the investigation.



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