Weather Hampers Searchers

As Coast Guard, military personnel and fishermen continued to search for debris, the weather off Nova Scotia turned ugly, making their job more difficult.
The low-pressure front coming in advance of former hurricane Earl is moving into the area, reports CBS News Correspondent Jeffrey Kofman, bringing with it driving rains and winds, as well as huge waves, which will scatter the debris and make searches by air almost impossible.

"We're also told that a Canadian submarine will move into the area to use its sonar to find the critical data recorder from the flight," Kofman says.

Searchers have also put locating devices in the ocean to be tracked by satellite. That will allow them to see which way the debris is drifting, so as the circle of debris ends they know which way to send the vessels.

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So far, Kofman reports, the largest piece of the aircraft searchers have found is 3 feet by 3 feet. But they have located a huge chunk of the fuselage intact, lying below the surface, in about 50 to 70 feet of water. Though it's seven miles out, there are a series of islands off the coast, and the fuselage is off one of these islands.

Authorities are also mapping the ocean's floor to compare it with previous maps of the floor, in order to find parts of the wreckage.

It's not clear yet whether investigators will pull up large parts of the wreckage, as they did with TWA Flight 800. First, they want to find the black boxes. If the black boxes offer some kind of conclusive proof as to what happened, they may decide to leave a large part of the wreckage on the ocean floor.

Investigators still had little idea what caused the crash. When the pilot first radioed that he had a problem, he said that there was "Smoke in the cockpit." This is not uncommon, a distress call heard nearly every week on American carriers alone, forcing pilots to make unscheduled or emergency landings.

Sgt. Don McInnes (CBS)
"Some of the things that have been found are seat cushions, footwear, styrofoam from the insulation of the aircraft and plastics and various sorts, parts of the aircraft itself," said Sergeant Don McInnes, who is working on the search effort. "Most of the pieces are small; probably not much more than a meter or so across."

Divers must be wary while searching, McInnes said: "A lot of their concern will be with contaminants in the water, such as the fuel and oil. Also, the aircraft wreckage itself would pose serious hazards with cables and sharp edges that could rip dry suits or hoses."

©1998, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report