FBI Explains Other Planes At Flight 93 Crash

Second Black Box Found Friday, Now Being Studied

The Pittsburgh Channel
September 15, 2001, updated October 11, 2001

SHANKSVILLE, Pa. -- Hoping to dispel rumors that United Airlines Flight 93 might have been shot down by military aircraft, the FBI Saturday said that two other planes were in the area but had nothing to do with the hijacked flight crashing in western Pennsylvania.

The FBI said that a civilian business jet flying to Johnstown was within 20 miles of the low-flying airliner, but at an altitude of 37,000 feet.

That plane was asked to descend to 5,000 feet -- an unusual maneuver -- to help locate the crash site for responding emergency crews.

The FBI said that is probably why some witnesses say they saw another plane in the sky shortly after Flight 93 crashed at 10:10 a.m. Tuesday in a grassy field near Shanksville, about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

The FBI said there was also a C-130 military cargo aircraft about 17 miles away that saw smoke or dust near the crash site, but that plane wasn't armed and had no role in the crash. That plane was flying at 24,000 feet.

Officials in Washington, D.C., are hoping the flight's voice recorder, recovered Friday night, will help them figure out why the jet crashed.

Based on cell phone calls passengers made to their families, officials believe several passengers fought with the hijackers to crash the plane before it could be used to target another landmark in Tuesday's attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Sen. Arlen Specter said that he is looking into the possibility of a Presidential Medal of Freedom for the passengers on Flight 93 who apparently took action against the hijackers. There is talk, too, of a monument once the FBI gets through recovering aircraft parts and human remains.

Earlier in the week, witnesses described seeing more planes to WTAE-TV reporters. Click here for video of those accounts.

On Friday, WTAE-TV reported that the mystery pilot in the white plane may have been an area farmer.

James K. Will, a Berlin, Pa., farmer who pilots a white Cessna with red stripes (pictured at right) and who has an airstrip near his farm, told Team 4 reporter Paul Van Osdol that he circled the scene about 45 minutes after the crash.

Will said he had just returned from Altoona and, when he'd heard about the crash, flew to the site to take photos of the wreckage. Pennsylvania State Police said that his plane may have been the one that many saw.

Will's flight was intercepted by a state police helicopter and was escorted to the Johnstown-area airport. His plane was searched and he was released.

Local Rescue Team Returns From NYC

A rescue unit from White Oak, Pa., returned Friday night from the site of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks.

Ten members of the White Oak rescue team volunteered at a triage just two blocks away from the devastation.

Tim Bendig said that the experience always will be with him. He said that he never will forget the smell.

"It's a potent odor," he said. "It's in your nostrils. You know it's there."

For a slideshow of some of the pictures that the rescue team took while in New York, click here.

The workers raised $1,000 in order to make the eight-and-a-half-hour drive to New York. Local stores donated water, food and shovels.

The workers said that many Pennsylvania Turnpike travelers would stop them at rest stops and hug them out of appreciation for their work in New York.

Meanwhile, Leon Burnett, 24, of Fairview Township, Pa., walked away from his tool-and-die job and drove eight-and-a-half hours to New York City or, as he called it Friday upon returning, "the center of hell."

Burnett left work with $100 and worked 32 straight hours helping to clear debris at the demolished World Trade Center.

"I walked over past where Building 5 (of the Trade Center complex) was standing. The pile of debris was five-and-a-half stories high. I walked three-and-a-half blocks before I found the end of it," Burnett said.

He joined two city sanitation officials exploring the lower parking level. One dark room contained a bright red light -- an I-beam still red-hot from the fire that collapsed the building.

Burnett said that he saw an exhausted firefighter fall backward, asleep into eight inches of mud. "Twenty minutes later, he got back up with his ax and went back to work," Burnett said.

Burnett returned Thursday when his gas and meal money ran out.

Burnett's boss understood his employee's urge, even if it inconvenienced his company, Precise Plastics.

"It put us in a little bit of a bind," said shop owner Joe Tosco. "But, especially with what happened (in New York), what are you going to do?"

Steelers In The Crowd

Pittsburgh Steelers players and officials were among the crowd of 3,000 that mourned the 45 victims of United Airlines Flight 93 Friday night in Somerset, not far from where the hijacked plane crashed.

Friday was the national day of prayer. Click here to see how western Pennsylvanians marked the day.

Team president Dan Rooney and wife, Pat; vice president Art Rooney II; Kevin Colbert, the director of football operations; and about 25 players, including quarterback Kordell Stewart and running back Jerome Bettis, made the 85-mile bus ride to the service.

"I think it's something our players wanted to do," Dan Rooney said. "The only purpose was to show our support for the families involved."

None of the Steelers spoke during the 75-minute service, and their presence wasn't mentioned by any of the speakers, which included Gov. Tom Ridge.

"We all felt a little helpless like, `What could we do?'," said Coach Bill Cowher, who also attended with his wife, Kaye. "We wanted to be a part of it. I'll remember this the rest of my life."


Copyright 2001

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