NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The New York City medical examiner’s office says its workers were sifting soil for possible human remains at a site near the World Trade Center, where a plane part was found last week.
Personnel from the fire and police departments also were at the scene Tuesday.
After nearly 12 years, investigators still found sifting through the debris to be an emotional experience, 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported.
“We’ve been dealing with this operation for 11 years, so it tears away at you,” an FDNY official told CBS 2’s Steve Langford.
In the afternoon, a police detective carried what appeared to be a brown evidence bag into the crime scene investigation truck on the scene, 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported. It is unclear what, if anything, was found.
The sifting operation is taking part near an aircraft part which was discovered on Wednesday wedged between an apartment building and a mosque that in 2010 prompted virulent national debate about Islam and freedom of speech because it’s just blocks from ground zero.
Fire officials said it’s only a matter of a few cubic yards of soil that’s being examined. But for the families of more than 1,000 9/11 victims who seemed to vanish that day, the operation could provide some sign of precious human remains.
“It’s just another cruel reminder of the events of that day,” FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said.
Boeing Co. confirmed the rusted metal part from a Boeing 767 is a trailing edge flap support structure, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said Monday. It is located closer to the body of the plane and helps secure wing flaps that move in and out and aid in regulating plane speed.
The metal part weighs than 200 pounds. It is about 4 feet long, and 3 or 4 feet high.
The wreckage had a clearly visible Boeing identification number and investigators initially thought it was part of the landing gear because both pieces have similar hydraulics.
“It is believed to be from one of the two aircraft destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001, but it could not be determined which one,” Browne said. The American Airlines and United Airlines planes hijacked by Islamic extremists on 9/11 were Boeing 767s.
An inspector on the roof of the mosque site, which is under construction, noticed the debris and then called 911.
Police documented the debris with photos. The twisted metal part, jammed in an 18-inch-wide, trash-laden passageway between the buildings, has cables and levers on it and is about 5 feet high, 17 inches wide and 4 feet long.
“It certainly is possible that it was wedged down there and went directly into the alley. Depends on the angle with which it hit,” said NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said Monday.
A piece of rope found with the plane part was later determined to have come from a responding officer who used it to move the plane part so he could look for identifying marks.
Once the medical examiner is finished, the NYPD Emergency Service Unit will remove the flap support structure from behind the building, Browne said. He said the part could be removed from the alley on Wednesday.
“Just clearing out the area to figure out the best way to remove the piece of the plane,” Cassano said.
In the past, such pieces have been treated as historical artifacts. For example, the New York State Museum in Albany has in its collection a large landing gear piece that fell through the roof to the basement at the same location. It was placed there in 2002.
Surveyor Frank VanBrunt of Levittown is the man who discovered that plane part wedged in a narrow alley in Lower Manhattan last week.
He said it was just a typical day out in the field, measuring and surveying land.
“I proceeded to go down this little narrow space, it’s about a foot and a half wide,” VanBrunt told WCBS 880’s Wayne Cabot.
The only way out to the area is through a window in a sub-cellar two levels below street level.
“We do a lot of surveying, dirty areas and stuff. This is basically one of the tightest areas I’ve ever seen. And it’s like right there,” VanBrunt told Cabot. “To be honest, right away that’s exactly what I thought it was. I thought it was maybe a piece of the landing gear or something from the plane.”
VanBrunt said because of the tight, inaccessible location where the part was found, he thinks it’s possible the area was never checked after 9/11.
Of the nearly 3,000 victims, remains of about 1,000 were never recovered.
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