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CNN BREAKING NEWS

B-1 Bomber Crew Safe Following Crash

Aired December 12, 2001 - 13:50   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Now, the other story we're following this hour, the crash of a B-1B bomber in the Indian Ocean. Let's go quickly to the Pentagon, our correspondent, Jamie McIntyre. Jamie, new information.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: New information just coming to the Pentagon, an initial report now that all four crew members from the B-1B bomber that crashed about 30 miles north of Diego Garcia have been recovered and are on a U.S. Navy ship.

Apparently, the USS Russell, which was steaming to the area at full speed, was able to launch a helicopter out to the scene and, according to this initial report, all four crew members have been rescued. We have no report on their condition. We do know that earlier, at least one of them was able to be in voice contact with a rescue plane that was circling overhead.

No indication yet about what caused the B-1 bomber to crash. We are told by Pentagon officials it was on route to Diego Garcia but it's not clear if it was on route after completing a bombing run or whether after leaving the British base, it had developed some sort of an engine problem and had to turn back. There are no indications that this was a result of any hostile fire and we are awaiting further confirmation of these initial reports that all four crew members have been recovered and perhaps an update on their condition -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And, Jamie, we were told originally that this plane, the B-1, went down about a little more than two hours ago. Of course, it is dark there. Tell us how -- tell us a little bit of the process about how they would have gone about finding it in the ocean.

MCINTYRE: Well, assuming that the plane developed some sort of a problem and the crew was aware that plane was going to go down, they would have ejected from the aircraft at as high an altitude as they could to give them enough time to get to the ground. The canopy of the plane blows off. All four of the crew members eject in a sequence that's timed to make sure they don't run into each other. Their chutes automatically deploy and they go down into the water.

Now, when the crews leave, they know that there is always a possibility they may have to bail out over water, so they are dressed especially to try to be in a position where they can survive in the water. There is also flotation devices that deploy with them. And a water activated radio beacon and strobe light that also deploy. Now, when the KC-10 refueling plane flew over the scene, it was able to detect the strobe light, pick up the beacon and, in fact, communicate with one of the crew members through a communication device. So they were able to tell very quickly that there had been at least one survivor. They were quickly able to pinpoint the location, a U.S. Navy ship, the USS Russell, a destroyer, immediately headed for the area. And as soon as is it was in helicopter range, apparently launched a helicopter or perhaps more than one helicopter -- I'm not sure -- to the scene and was able apparently to recover these four crew members.

Now, again, this is an initial report. It has just come back from the Pentagon. We are hoping to get some more details and confirmation that this is, in fact, accurate.

WOODRUFF: Jamie, they must be cheering at the Pentagon to think that they've apparently been saved all four is just terrific news.

MCINTYRE: Well, they have their got their fingers crossed that these initial reports will turn out to be accurate.

WOODRUFF: All right. Jamie McIntyre reporting from the Pentagon, our military affairs correspondent with the very good news that, evidently, all four crew members on the B-1B bomber that crashed in the Indian Ocean just north of Diego Garcia, the military base there, have been recovered and taken to a U.S. Navy ship. Very good news. And, of course, we will continue to follow that story and look for more confirmation as we can get it.

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