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Crashed copter’s ‘black box’ found

Wed., Dec. 29, 2004

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The “black box” data recorder from a Coast Guard rescue helicopter that crashed, killing six people, was recovered Tuesday as work got under way to remove fuel from a freighter that ran aground three weeks ago off Alaska’s coast.

The six crew members from the freighter died when the helicopter crashed into the Bering Sea in stormy weather shortly before the ship grounded and broke in half, spilling some fuel.

The black box was found near the freighter wreckage by divers, said Petty Officer Sara Francis. The box and its data will be given to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash.

A salvage company spent most of Tuesday clearing decks and making other preparations to remove fuel from the Selendang Ayu. The 738-foot freighter had an estimated 424,000 gallons of fuel oil and 18,000 gallons of diesel on board when it grounded off Unalaska Island on Dec. 8.

Salvagers know that one of the ship’s fuel tanks is empty. They are working on the premise that two others are empty as well, meaning that more than three-quarters of the fuel already may be lost, Francis said.

Winds were about 25 knots and seas relatively calm Tuesday – good weather for the Bering Sea in winter. Rain and snow were forecast for Thursday.

“They will use every available weather window until they’re done,” Francis said of the operation, which could take up to a month because of weather.

The Selendang Ayu was traveling to China with a load of soybeans when its crew shut down the main engine to do repair work off the Aleutian chain.


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