By JAKE BLEIBERG and JOHN L. MONE, Associated Press
ANAHUAC, Texas (AP) — Authorities have been searching a bay off southeast Texas for clues about what caused a Boeing 767 cargo plane carrying Amazon packages to nose-dive into the shallow water, killing all three men on board.
A north wind aided searchers by exposing more of the three-quarter-mile debris field left Saturday when Houston-bound Flight 3591, which Atlas Air was operating for Amazon, disintegrated on impact in Trinity Bay, about 35 miles (55 kilometers) east of the city, a sheriff said Sunday night.
Crews using airboats and helicopters circled the crash scene, where white chunks of fuselage could be seen above long grass. The muddy landscape has made the process “painstaking,” National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwal said. Deputies and investigators from the FBI and NTSB have been gathering human remains and looking for the plane’s black box, which records flight data and voices in the cockpit.
Emergency workers recovered two bodies on Sunday and sent them to a medical examiner’s office for autopsies.
A statement from Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne says he was notified Monday evening that the bodies have been identified as those of Conrad Aska, the 44-year-old first officer and co-pilot of Atlas Air Flight 3591, and Sean Archuleta, a 36-year-old jump-seat passenger.
Archuleta, a captain with Mesa Airlines, had been getting a lift back to his home in the Houston area, his friend told the Houston Chronicle . The 36-year-old was a new father and weeks away from starting his “dream” job flying for United Airlines, Don Dalton, Archuleta’s roommate, told the paper.
Archuleta’s wife lives in Colombia and was “devastated” by the news of his death, Dalton said.
Atlas Air said in a Sunday statement that it has established a program to support the families of the dead and that it has a team, including CEO Bill Flynn, at the crash site to assist investigators.
The last previous crash involving a large cargo plane in the United States was in 2016, according to a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman. The landing gear of a FedEx flight collapsed after touching down at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, causing the left wing of the McDonnell Douglas MD-10-10F to catch fire. The plane was badly damaged, but the two crew members were able to evacuate, the spokesman said.
Associated Press writer Bleiberg reported from Dallas.