Press Conference Recovery Operations

Press Conference: Recovery Operations held January 10, 2017 @ 12:30 PM

Search and recovery operations did not take place today due to weather and water conditions. A press conference was held to discuss recovery efforts to date.  Full press conference here.


Left to right: Director of Public Safety Michael McGrath, Interim Director of Port Control Fred Szabo, Commissioner of Burke Khalid Bahhur, and Dr. Gilson


Left to right: Dr. Gilson, Medical Examiner, Commissioner of Burke Khalid Bahhur, Mayor Frank G. Jackson and Lt. Colonel Adam J. Czekanski, Army Corps of Engineers

Commissioner of Burke Lakefront Airport Khalid Bahhur started the update by thanking the crews involved for their tireless efforts and dedication. He stated, “Our continued focus remains on ensuring the families have the information they need to find closure in this tragedy.”

Dr. Thomas Gilson, the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner, provide an update about the remains collected on Friday, January 6, 2017. He stated, “I can confirm that the remains collected last Friday are of human origin and male gender.” He continued by stating, “DNA testing was used to discern this information and we are working with the families to provide more specific identification.” No more details will be provided regarding these findings.

One debris field, about the size of a football field, has been identified from sonar scans and use of other equipment. In this debris field, there are four dive sites. Divers enter the water in these areas to begin their searches and these are the areas in which we have had the most success with water recovery. Divers have minimal visibility and feel around underwater as they are guided by crews aboard the vessels tracking them with sonar. Once the debris is located and if it appears to belong to the aircraft, they extract it from the water and put it on the deck of the boat and return it to shore, where it is processed as evidence in a secured area.

Despite some difficulty with ice on the water yesterday, crews successfully recovered several pieces of debris from the aircraft. The Salvage Chief, Underwater Marine Contractors’ 50-ft vessel, and the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ tug boat, the 70-ft. Donlon, were able to recover several pieces that we now know belong to the aircraft, including:

  • Portions of the fuselage, the largest piece was approximately 20 feet long
  • An engine,
  • Several seats,
  • A wheel,
  • And the canopy and windows from the cockpit. This piece is approximately 8 feet long by 5 feet wide.

Crews hoist an engine out of the water. Photo Credit: Underwater Marine Contractors, Inc.

Throughout this investigation, we have collected more than 170 pieces of debris, including other pieces of the aircraft and personal items and clothing from the passengers.

Pending weather and water conditions, crews hope to continue recovery operations in the water tomorrow. Conditions may only provide search and recovery operations to continue for 1-3 more days this week. This determination will be made daily based on weather and water conditions.

None of these search and recovery operations would have been possible without a lot of help from a lot of people. The City of Cleveland wants to thank the following partner agencies for their assistance and commend all those who have respected the families and offered assistance with these efforts both on scene and behind the scenes.

The list is long but includes: Cleveland Fire, Police and EMS; Underwater Marine Contractors, Inc.; Cleveland Metroparks Rangers; Akron, Toledo and Brecksville Fire; New York State Police dive team; Ohio Department of Natural Resources; US Coast Guard; US Army Corps of Engineers; US Geological Survey; The NTSB and FAA and many other agencies. All have been tremendous partners and the City is very grateful for all that they continue to contribute to these efforts.