. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Wreckage Vanishes in Everglades

Combined Reports


MIAMI -- Almost a day after the Florida Everglades' swamp swallowed up a DC-9 with 109 people aboard, rescue workers had recovered no bodies and no pieces of the jet larger than a baseball cap, officials said Sunday.


Airboats fanned out and crews prepared to build a gravel road through the muddy, alligator-infested waters to reach the remote crash site.


Emergency workers Sunday called off their search for survivors from the ValuJet Flight 592, which plowed into the swamp after taking off from Miami International Airport on Saturday afternoon, and said they would focus on trying to recover pieces of the plane.


Luis Fernandez of the Metro-Dade Fire Rescue agency said workers stopped their search when it became apparent that no one could have survived the swampy crash site because of the difficult conditions.


The shallow, slow-moving waters and thick mud hid what wreckage remained of the jet. Unlike most crashes which scatter fuselage and personal belongings over a wide area, the ValuJet disappeared with barely a trace in an area about the size of two football fields.


Investigators battled waist-deep water, thick muck, snakes, razor-sharp sawgrass and an oily sheen from the jet's fuel. Workers assigned people to watch for wildlife and chase off alligators.


"This area is heavily populated by alligators and poisonous snakes, and we're trying to do our best and at the same time not put any of the rescuers' lives at risk," said Lieutenant Roman Bas of Metro-Dade Fire Rescue.


Flat-bottomed boats had searched the area with flashlights throughout the night. The muck, described as similar to quicksand, was more than five feet deep and lay under waist-deep water.


Air safety officials refused to speculate on what caused the crash. Robert Francis, vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, sought to play down the safety record of the 27-year-old aircraft saying, "We don't have any more concerns about the DC-9 than any other aircraft."


Shortly after takeoff, the pilot radioed the control tower to report smoke in the cockpit, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The DC-9 turned around and crashed 24 kilometers northwest of Miami. ()