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A Grim Search

It's a dreary morning in Peggys Cove, near the location where Swissair Flight 111 went down in the Atlantic with 229 people on board.

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Rescue crews have returned from a grim scene off eastern Nova Scotia with no reports of survivors.

Canadian Broadcasting Company's Norma Lee MacLeod reports that anything found in the water is being brought ashore at Peggys Cove, and it's a beehive of activity. As rescue crews waited for daybreak in a driving rain, lights illuminated the eerie scene. But, MacLeod reports, emergency workers were having difficulty because of darkness, bad weather, and high waves.

At 3:30 Thursday morning, the first body was taken ashore from the debris site. CBC Reporter Rob Gordon was out at the debris field on a fishing boat.

Says Gordon, "It's a really horrific and eerie scene. The place is lit by flares dropped from helicopters and airplanes. There are dozens of fishing boats, Canadian warships and Coast Guard cutters."

He saw pieces of the plane and a damaged life raft, many life jackets, and bodies. Every 30 seconds or so, reports Gordon, fishermen were calling to the Canadian naval vessel, saying, "I found a body. I need more body bags."

Although boats and choppers search frantically for survivors, there is absolutely no hint whatsoever that anybody has survived.

American and Canadian investigators are working together as they search for answers at the crash scene.

CBS News Correspondent Bob Orr reports that Thursday is going to be a very long day for investigators who just got to the crash debris scene early Thursday morning.

Here's what they knew at that time:

  • 45 minutes into the flight from JFK International Airport to Geneves, the pilot had a problem on board and reported smoke in the cockpit to air traffic control.

  • The pilot declared an emergency, tried to turn the plane around and to land in Halifax.

  • When the plane went down, air traffic control lost track of the plane on radar at about 9:18 p.m. EDT.
There are conflicting reports about exactly what the altitude of the plane might have been when last tracked on radar.

Orr reports, "Listening to [reports] about the debris scene and the size of the pieces of wreckage, I would tell you that it seems more likely now than it did before that this was a high-impact accident, perhaps suggesting that the plane came down from a much higher altitude than we first thought."

At JFK Airport, CBS News Correspondent Diana Olick says security is very tight, to protect the relatives and friends of the passengrs aboard Fight 111.

Of the 229 people aboard the flight, 184 of them caught the flight in New York. Among help converging on the airport are Red Cross teams, police officials, federal investigators, and New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.