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Key pieces of ValuJet
puzzle emerge

piles of metal

Dredging may end this week

June 5, 1996
Web posted at: 10:10 p.m. EDT

MIAMI (CNN) -- An investigator probing the crash of Valujet Flight 592 into the Florida Everglades told CNN Wednesday that evidence recovered at the crash site suggests many passengers may have died from toxic fumes before impact.

Heavy soot damage on a rear portion of the passenger cabin suggests the passenger cabin quickly filled with toxic cyanide-laden fumes from burning interior panels and cargo bins. The investigator told CNN that evidence now strongly points to "a major fire in the forward (cargo) bay that spread quickly to the cabin."

Seventy percent of the remains of ValuJet Flight 592 have been gathered, including crucial fragments from the DC-9's main circuit breaker panel, the National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday.

crash site

Some of the larger pieces were found after the discovery earlier this week of a new depression within the main crater formed by the plane's impact. ValuJet Flight 592 crashed in the Florida Everglades nearly a month ago, killing all 110 people on board.

But the depression didn't contain as much debris as searchers had hoped, and much of what is being found now was pulverized in the crash. "You could dig out there for the next 100 years and continue to find airplane parts," said NTSB lead investigator Greg Feith.

Thousands of pieces of crunched metal are accumulating in a hangar at Tamiami Airport, where the NTSB will reconstruct the plane. Some of the latest finds include two unidentified small parts from the cockpit instrument panel.

The NTSB has identified small portions of the plane's main circuit breaker panel, including the right auxiliary hydraulic pump, which investigators said showed no evidence of fire, smoke or electrical arcing.

backhoe

The finding could help investigators rule out the theory that a circuit breaker fire contributed to the crash. The plane was delayed in Atlanta several hours before the crash while a mechanic checked reported trouble with that section of the circuit breaker.

The NTSB also found more parts of passenger seat frames, a flight crew seat and a pilot smoke mask, all showing no fire, smoke or heat damage.

On the other hand, investigators said they found more oxygen-generating canisters bearing evidence of fire damage.

Investigators have said the leading theory is that the crash was caused by the ignition of an oxygen generator, leading to a cargo hold fire. Sixteen oxygen generators and parts of two others stored in the cargo hold have now been recovered. The NTSB earlier said the activating cap on one of them had been released.

From the crash site, crews also discovered more sections of the burnt cargo compartment and floor beam structure. Some of those parts will be used at a hangar where a mockup of the front cargo hold is under construction.

At the end of the week, the NTSB will evaluate its progress and decide how much longer to continue the salvage and recovery work. If investigators decide they have enough debris to solve the puzzle, they may halt the search and proceed to the analysis stage.

Correspondent Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.

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