Nearly three-quarters of Flight 261 wreckage recovered

Posted: Friday, March 17, 2000

PORT HUENEME, Calif. (AP) -- Having pulled about three-quarters of the wreckage of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 from the Pacific Ocean, investigators are close to wrapping up recovery operations.

''We've been shooting for recovering 65 percent of the wreckage, and we've exceeded that significantly,'' said Richard Rodriguez, lead investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board. ''It has been catalogued and identified.''

He said investigators plan to complete recovery operations off the Ventura County coast this week.

The MD-83 jetliner plunged into the Pacific on Jan. 31, killing all 88 people aboard, including five Alaskans. The flight, headed to San Francisco and Seattle from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, was trying to make an emergency landing in Los Angeles after crew members reported problems with the plane's rear stabilizer, a mechanism that controls the plane's pitch.

The NTSB probe has focused on the aircraft's control mechanisms, including damage to a component called the jackscrew, which controls the up and down movement of the stabilizer. Flight 261's jackscrew was found with the shredded remains of a nut that the screw moves through.

About 20 NTSB investigators are inspecting salvaged wreckage being stored at the Navy Construction Battalion Center. A final report on the cause of the crash is not expected for up to nine months, Rodriguez said.

Meanwhile, the Ventura County coroner has identified the remains of 58 victims. Officials say DNA analysis may be required to identify the rest of the victims.

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