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A new theory: burned steering cables

handsweep
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Heavy equipment to dig
for ValuJet wreckage

May 26, 1996
Web posted at: 6:30 a.m. EDT

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- Search crews performed final hand-sweeps through the Everglades sawgrass Saturday, fearing that heavy salvage equipment brought in to dredge the crash site of ValuJet Flight 592 will disturb the remaining wreckage.

NTSB chairman Jim Hall, who flew over the site Saturday, thanked the workers for their efforts. "It is probably the most difficult and taxing site the board has ever excavated," he said.

cylinder

Two weeks after the crash, searchers are still finding human remains. But the biggest problem in the crash investigation is not what has been found, but what has not. Seventy-five percent of the wreckage remains missing, including the cockpit voice recorder and more than 100 oxygen-generating canisters.

The canisters, which were in the cargo hold, may have contributed to a fire on board the plane. Aviation experts are considering several theories of what caused the crash, including the possibility that the plane's steering cables were damaged by a fire in the cargo hold.

The steering cables, which are not electronic, run from the cockpit through the middle of the fuselage, just above where the cargo fire may have burned, to the flight control surfaces. Burned cables could have caused the pilots to lose control of the DC-9, according to an aviation consultant who is also a DC-9 pilot.

backhoe

Investigators are bringing in heavy equipment to get to more of the wreck. One dredging tool, a 49-ton backhoe with giant jaws, will attempt to scoop out wreckage embedded in the limestone beneath the muck.

The backhoe will travel along a path outlined by Navy radar tests that detected large chunks of wreckage. "They have the pattern of the crash pretty well figured out and marked, so they'll be guiding us as it develops," said Resolve Towing Executive Vice President Mauricio Garrido.

Investigators are hoping to find portions of the plane, especially near the front, in the cockpit, and in the forward cargo hold. A mockup of the cargo bay is being constructed in an effort to determine if a fire there contributed to the crash.

Correspondent Paul Caron contributed to this report.

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