The crash site at Somerset County, Pennsylvania
By Elias Davidsson
Many of those who rushed to the reported crash site of Flight UA93 (of 9/11) at Somerset County near Shanksville, were surprised to see no plane wreckage, no bodies, no blood, nothing but a hole in the ground.1 Here are observations from local people and journalists who arrived at the scene shortly after the crash:
• Homer Barron, a worker at Stoystown Auto Wreckers, told Post-Gazette that he and his coworker, Jeff Phillips, drove to the crash scene and found there a smoky hole in the ground: “It didn’t look like a plane crash because there was nothing that looked like a plane,” he said. His colleague, however, said, “There was one part of a seat burning up there. That was something you could recognize.”2
• Jon Meyer, a reporter with WJAC-TV, says, “I was able to get right up to the edge of the crater.… All I saw was a crater filled with small, charred plane parts. Nothing that would even tell you that it was the plane.… There were no suitcases, no recognizable plane parts, no body parts. The crater was about 30 to 35 feet deep.” [Newseum et al., 2002, pp. 148]
• Wally Miller, the county coroner, was among the very first to arrive at the crash site. He gave numerous interviews in which he expressed his surprise to see no bodies and no blood at the crash site. In one of the earliest interviews with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he said, “It was as if the plane had stopped and let the passengers off before it crashed.”3 He repeated this comment in an interview with CNN on March 11, 2002.4 He was stunned at how small the smoking crater looked, he says, “like someone took a scrap truck, dug a 10-foot ditch and dumped all this trash into it.” Once he was able to absorb the scene, Miller said, “I stopped being coroner after about 20 minutes, because there were no bodies there.”5A year after the events, he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “I have not, to this day, seen a single drop of blood [a the crash site]. Not a drop.” To author David McCall he told, “I got to the actual crash site and could not believe what I saw…Usually you see much debris, wreckage, and much noise and commotion. This crash was different. There was no wreckage, no bodies, and no noise…It appeared as though there were no passengers or crew on this plane.”6
• Mark Stahl of Somerset, a salesman, arrived at the site 15 minutes after the explosion. He told the Tribune-Review that he didn’t realize a passenger jet had crashed until a firefighter told him. “It’s unbelievable” he said.7
• Frank Monaco of the Pennsylvania State Police says, “If you would go down there, it would look like a trash heap. There’s nothing but tiny pieces of debris. It’s just littered with small pieces.”8
• Scott Spangler, a photographer with a local newspaper, says, “I didn’t think I was in the right place. I was looking for a wing or a tail. There was nothing, just this pit.… I was looking for anything that said tail, wing, plane, metal. There was nothing.”9
• Ron Delano, a local who rushed to the scene after hearing about the crash, said, “If they hadn’t told us a plane had wrecked, you wouldn’t have known. It looked like it hit and disintegrated.”10
• Gabrielle DeRose, a news anchor with KDKA-TV, views the crash site from a hill overlooking it. She says, “It was very disturbing to think all the remains just disintegrated…. There were no large pieces of airplane, no human remains, no baggage.”11
• Rick King, a local assistant volunteer fire chief, who sees the crater at the crash site, says, “Never in my wildest dreams did I think half the plane was down there.” King sends his men into the woods to search for the plane’s fuselage, but they keep coming back and telling him, “Rick. There’s nothing.”12
Some of the above eyewitnesses, including Mark Stahl, Ron Delano and Wally Miller, deducted from the absence of visible debris that the plane had entirely disintegrated. However, merely 12 days after 9/11, FBI agent Bill Crowley announced “that 95 percent of the plane was recovered…and the pieces of United Airlines Flight 93 that had been recovered were turned over Sunday to the airline…”13 He said that the biggest piece recovered was a 6-by-7-foot piece of the fuselage skin, including four windows. The heaviest piece, he said, was part of an engine fan, weighing about 1,000 pounds. None of the eyewitnesses had mentioned having observed these objects at the crash site.
Media reports explained that the plane had not integrated, as believed, but that the 155ft-long fuselage had disappeared into the soft ground and was buried there, hidden from view. Thus Tom Gibb, of the Post-Gazette, mused on October 15, 2001, that the “fuselage disintegrated in a crater that collapsed on itself”.14 This story reappeared in force a year after 9/11 and remained the official explanation for the lack of debris. Robb Frederick of Tribune-Review wrote on September 11, 2002, “The plane pitched, then rolled, belly up. It hit nose-first, like a lawn dart…digging more than 30 feet into the earth, which was spongy from the old mine work.15 Wes Allison of the St. Petersburg Times, wrote on September 10, 2003, that ”the site had been mined for coal, then refilled with dirt. It was still soft when Flight 93 crashed, and firefighters said the Boeing 757 tunneled right in.”16 Mary Jo Dangel of the St. Anthony Messenger Online explained later why the wreckage was not visible: “The ground had swallowed up much of the wreckage.”17 The Australian paper The Age tried to provide a scientific explanation, writing that the “rest of the 757 continued its downward passage, the sandy loam closing behind it like the door of a tomb.”18 The FBI had apparently to dig out far down to find the plane: “[M]uch of the wreckage was found buried 20 to 25 feet below the large crater”. According to WTAE-TV, Pittsburgh, of September 14, 2001, the cockpit voice recorder from flight UA93 was found at 8:25 on that day “about 25 feet within the crater.”19 No independent observer was, however, present during the excavation.
At the Moussaoui trial, a handful of photographs alleged to have been taken at the crash sites have been released and posted on the web. The photographs are of extremely bad quality. It is difficult to believe that the FBI is incapable to make better images of a crime site.
How did the 9/11 Commission address the lack of wreckage and bodies at the crash site of Flight 93?
It simply ignored these testimonies. This crash site is mentioned only a few times in the Commission’s Final Report and mainly to convey two alleged facts: That “no evidence of firearms or of their identifiable remains was found at the aircraft’s crash site” and that “[t]he FBI collected 14 knives or portions of knives at the Flight 93 crash site.”
Despite the apparent lack of wreckage reported by those first at the crash scene, the FBI claimed that it had recovered 95 percent of the plane. The largest piece found, it says, is a seven-foot-long piece of the fuselage skin, including four windows. With the exception of the two black boxes, all wreckage is passed on to United Airlines. Asked what United will do with this, a spokeswoman says, “I don’t think a decision has been made… but we’re not commenting.”20
In contradiction to all witnesses’ testimonies, The Telegraph (UK) tells us that “In the wreckage of the plane that crashed outside Pittsburgh, allegedly on its way to attack Washington, stewardesses’ bodies were found with their hands bound behind their backs.”21 This fact was neither observed by eyewitnesses nor corroborated by the FBI. It demonstrates that the media either invented such stories or were provided with such legends by unidentified officials in order to increase the impact of the 9/11 legend.
1 Doc.092-UA93.jpg. According to a photographer interviewed by Fox News, there was no smoke either.
2 Bob Batz, et al, The crash in Somerset: ‘It dropped out of the clouds’, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 12, 2001, at http://www.post-gazette.com/headlines/20010912somerscenenat4p3.asp
3 Tom Gibb, Newsmaker: Coroner’s quiet unflappability helps him take charge of Somerset tragedy, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 15, 2001, at http://www.post-gazette.com/headlines/20011015newsmaker1015p2.asp
5 Peter Perl, Hallowed Ground, Washington Post, May 12, 2002, at http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A56110-2002May8
7 “Homes, neighbors rattled by crash”, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 12, 2001, at http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/s_12942.html
13 FBI finished with Pennsylvania crash site probe, CNN, September 24, 2001, at http://archives.cnn.com/2001/US/09/24/inv.pennsylvania.site/index.html
15 Robb Frederick, The day that changed America, Tribune-Review, September 11, 2002, at http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/s_90823.html
16 Wes Allison, Small town shoulders a nation’s grief, St. Petersburg Times, September 10, 2003, at http://www.sptimes.com/2003/09/10/news_pf/Worldandnation/Small_town_shoulders_.shtml
17 Mary Jo Dangel, St. Anthony Messenger (American Catholic), September 2006, at http://www.americancatholic.org/Messenger/Sep2006/Feature2.asp
18 On Hallowed Ground, The Age, September 9, 2002, at http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2002/09/09/1031115990570.html
19 Second Black Box Found At Somerset Site, WTAE.COM, September 14, 2001
21 Philip Delves Broughton, Last words from Flight 11: ‘I can see water and buildings. Oh my God!” The Telegraph, September 21, 2001, at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/1341236/Last-words-from-Flight-11-I-can-see-water-and-buildings.-Oh-my-God.html