July 21, 1996 in Nation/World

Community Rises At Crash Scene Volunteers Key Element Of Task Force Operation

Newsday
 

Within a wall of police checkpoints, investigators have erected a small, makeshift community of tents, mobile vans and trailers next to the Coast Guard station at East Moriches, Long Island.

A 60-by-12-foot white tent next to the water, embossed with the black letters “NY-TF1” - for New York Task Force 1 - serves as the 200-member community’s hub, where federal, state and county officials converge to piece together what happened to TWA Flight 800.

FBI agents are working and living out of a Winnebago while Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents are using green Army tents.

Volunteers are a key part of the operation, participants say. The American Red Cross, for example, has been feeding workers since the beginning, and local restaurants have been delivering food as well. Food is available 24 hours a day.

The Hooters restaurant in nearby Islandia sent its waitresses in tight shorts and T-shirts to the compound Friday afternoon bearing sandwiches, fried chicken and fruit. Before long, the women were wearing law enforcement hats from different agencies.

Investigators and volunteers stopped occasionally to pet the Coast Guard station’s mascot, a black Labrador retriever named Bud. At the end of the day, they congregated in groups, talking and drinking coffee.

Floodlights put up Friday night by Nassau County emergency services officials allowed work hours to be extended into the night.

Saturday morning, the Navy’s portable operations center, built into a converted shipping container, was unloaded from a tractor-trailer next to the New York task force tent.

Meanwhile, the boathouse and a nearby four-car garage - where boats delivered bodies and debris during the first days after the crash - remained cordoned off by police tape. Windows in the boathouse are blocked with cardboard, and the media is forbidden to take pictures because investigators don’t want evidence photographed.


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