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Among the dead were 137 Americans, according to airline officials. By mid-morning, rescuers had recovered 36 bodies from the turbulent waters a few miles off Peggy's Cove, a small fishing village and tourist retreat.
A Swissair spokeswoman said the victims' names would be posted on the airline's Web site Thursday evening.
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The plane, a Boeing MD-11, carried 229 passengers, including two infants and 14 crew, said Philippe Roy, a Geneva airport spokesman.
Speaking from Northern Ireland, President Clinton said after learning of the crash, "We hope for the best, and we are deeply grieved that this has occurred."
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A spokesman for the World Health Organization said Thursday that Dr. Jonathan Mann, a former WHO official and early pioneer in the fight against AIDS, and his wie, Mary-Lou Clements Mann, were among the passengers killed in the crash.
Seven current U.N members were also among the dead. They included Pierce Gerety, an American on the High Commission of Refugees based in Geneva.
[Click here for more on the victims.]
|CLICK IMAGE: Unidentified relative of a Flight 111 passenger is comforted at Geneva's Cointrin airport.|
"We heard the plane go over our home, then my husband and son heard quite an explosion," Blandford resident Audrey Bachman told The Associated Press. She said she was sleeping at the time of the crash.
Other witnesses reported hearing groaning sounds before the plane went down. "The motors were still going, but it was the worst-sounding deep groan that I've ever heard," said Claudia Zinck-Gilroy.
Local fishing vessels helped comb the 61-degree waters for possible survivors, but they found only bodies and human remains.
|Delta/Swissair Information Hotline for friends and family: 1-800-801-0088.|
Lt. Cmdr. Glenn Chamberlain of the Halifax Rescue Coordination Center said those calls came about one hour into the flight.
"The flight deck crew reported smoke in the cockpit before attempting the emergency landing. About 30 miles south of the airport, the aircraft disappeared from radar screens," Swissair spokeswoman Beatrice Tschanz said.
U.S. officials said there is no evidence that the crash was the result of a terrorist act, perhaps retaliation for U.S. missile strikes in Sudan and Afghanistan.
"We have no indication that terrorism was involved," said White House spokesman P.J. Crowley. Canadian crash investigators added that so far there was no evidence of criminaactivity.
Crash investigators continued to search for the plane's flight/data recorder into the afternoon on Thursday.
|CLICK IMAGE: Rescue workers pull sneakers from water.|
Lt. Cmdr. Mike Considine of the Search and Rescue Center in Halifax said the weather in the area was good at the time of the crash, with clear skies and relatively calm seas. It later began to rain as rescuers continued their search for survivors.
Crash investigators told reporters that there was a large portion of the plane still intact, although it has not yet been recovered.
|CLICK IMAGE: Flight 111 listed as delayed at Geneva's airport Wednesday night.|
McDonnell Douglas first introduced MD-11s, a three-engine plane, in 1986 as the successor to the popular DC-10. The first commercial MD-11 went into service in December 1990. As of April 1998, 178 MD-11s had been delivered. Boeing later acquired McDonnel Douglas and recently announced it would phase out the plane.
In Washington, National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Jamie Finch said the U.S. agency was in consultation with its counterparts in Canada and 10 NTSB investigators have been sent to Nova Scotia.
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