Investigators hoped to haul up the fuselage of a sunken seaplane Tuesday to find why it broke apart and plunged into the ocean just off Miami Beach, killing all 20 people on board, including three infants. Acting National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Mark Rosenker said Tuesday that investigators hope to find the cockpit voice recorder to see if it provides any clues to why the Chalk's Ocean Airways plane crashed moments after taking off for a trip to the island of Bimini in the Bahamas.
Rosenker said investigators would look into all possible causes. He told reporters most of the answers in the investigation would come from examining the wreckage. He expected a final determination of the crash's cause in about a year. He urged witnesses who made amateur video or still photographs of the crash to come forward. One amateur video obtained by CNN showed the main part of the aircraft slamming into the water followed by a flaming object that was trailing thick black smoke.
A Coast Guard security video of the plane will also be reviewed and enhanced, but one spokesman said it didn't capture as much as the CNN video. "You see the plane taking off and it goes off into the distance. Then you see smoke," Coast Guard Petty Officer Ryan Doss said. The video won't be released to the public, he said.
Although the seaplane, a twin-engine Grumman G-73T Turbine Mallard, was built in 1947, Rosenker said there was no reason to believe that the entire fleet was not airworthy. Within minutes of the crash, rescue workers, boaters and surfers converged on the oil-slicked crash scene. Nineteen bodies were recovered and divers suspended efforts to find the final body late Monday.
Two crew and 18 passengers were on the flight. At least 11 of the victims were returning home to Bimini, a 7-mile (11-kilometer) long island of 1,600 residents, many after Christmas shopping jaunts. Charter boat operator Audley Dean, who lost four family members on the flight, said Tuesday on Bimini that "everybody is in a state of shock. People are walking around like zombies", reports the AP. N.U.
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