Officials Said Plane Targeted Camp David
POSTED: 10:31 a.m. EDT September 11, 2001
UPDATED: 8:52 a.m. EDT October 11, 2001
WTAE-TV reporter Jim Parsons and a cameraman hiked more than two miles along old coal-mining roads through the woods leading up to the point where a Boeing 757 passenger jet crashed in Somerset County, Pa., Tuesday morning.
They were looking for a clear vantage point to view the crash scene, but they found themselves in the midst of debris.
"We (were) literally surrounded by debris, and there’s a very strong odor of scorched earth," Parsons reported. "It doesn’t smell like jet fuel, it smells like … How do you describe it? Burned earth. It smells like burned earth."
An FBI official said that the crash appeared to be an act of terrorism. No official confirmation has been made.
Officials at Somerset County Airport confirmed the crash occurred at a strip mine in Stonycreek Township, about 60 miles east of Pittsburgh. No survivors were reported by a UPMC Stat Medevac crew observing the scene. Officials have said that there were 38 passengers and seven crew members on board.
The Newark-to-San Francisco flight reportedly diverted its route near Pittsburgh and ignored calls from Pittsburgh International Airport controllers. Allegheny County Emergency Management Coordinator Bob Full said that Pittsburgh International Airport officials had knowledge of the plane headed for Pittsburgh and that it was taking precautionary action when the plane diverted its course. The plane actually reached the Cleveland area before turning around.
ABC News reported that a request to change the flight plan to Washington, D.C. was asked for by someone on the plane.
U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity told the Associated Press that the Secret Service told the White House that the plane may have been headed for Camp David in nearby Maryland. Fearing the White House also might be a target, the Secret Service diverted President Bush, who was in Florida at the time of the attacks, to Louisiana and Nebraska while they assessed the threat.
Rep. James Moran, D-Va., told the Associated Press after a Marine Corps briefing in Washington that United Flight 93 was apparently intended for Camp David, the presidential retreat in the mountains of Maryland, but later said that he did not make the statement.
The crash site was 85 miles northwest of Camp David.
Glen Cramer of Westmoreland County 911 told WTAE-TV that a call was received at about 9:58 a.m. that reported the plane was hijacked. The call originated from the cell phone of a man locked in the bathroom of United Flight 93.
Somerset, Pa., Plane Crash
The caller was on the phone with 911 operators for about one minute and said that the plane had been hijacked, Cramer said.
An explosion was then heard. The crash was reported 10 to 15 minutes later.
Alice Hoglan told ABC’s "Good Morning America" that her son, Mark Bingham, 31, called her from aboard the flight at 9:44 a.m.
"We’ve been taken over. There are three men that say they have a bomb," Hoglan said her son told her.
Also, the Associated Press reports that a flight attendant called her husband on a cell phone shortly before the plane crashed. Lorne Lyles, a Fort Myers, Fla., police officer, was at home when his wife, CeeCee Lyles, called from the airplane.
The police department issued a statement saying that it would not release further details about the call because of "the obvious ongoing law enforcement investigation."
The jet reportedly went down at approximately 10:20 a.m. near Indian Lake in Buckstown, Somerset County. It is approximately eight miles from Jennerstown, near Route 30. Click here for a map of the area.
The plane crashed into a wooded area. Many witnesses said that their homes were shaking violently as the plane flew low overhead.
A witness told WTAE-TV’s Paul Van Osdol that she saw the plane overhead. It made a high-pitched, screeching sound. The plane then made a sharp, 90-degree downward turn and crashed.
Officials said that they believed that the plane took a dip and nose-dived into an abandoned strip mine.
Pop-upClick here for a slideshow of the crash scene, including pictures of debris from the site.
Another witness, Michael Merringer, said he was out on a mountain bike ride with his wife, Amy, about two miles from the crash site.
"(I) heard the engine gun two different times," he said. "(I) heard a loud bang and the windows of the houses all around rattled."
Merringer said he saw the smoke rising and he and his wire drove near the scene. "Everything was on fire and there were trees knocked down and there was a big hole in the ground," he said.
WTAE-TV’s Michelle Wright toured the crash scene and said that a crater of about 30 to 40 feet long, 15 to 20 feet wide and 18 feet deep was created by the crash.
Officials told WTAE’s Marcie Cipriani that it looked like the plane was headed south when it hit the ground. Most of the plane’s debris kept traveling after the plane hit and landed in the woods past the mine. Most of the debris is small.
Recovery efforts will begin Wednesday morning. Crews said that they have faith that the flight data recorder, or "black box," will be found. The FBI will hold another news conference at noon on Wednesday.
Gov. Tom Ridge said that there are no words that can describe the range of feelings after Tuesday’s terror attacks.
"Rage, horror, sorrow. You name it, you feel it," Ridge said.