ALIQUIPPA, Pa. -- Hundreds of small red flags dotted the charred hillside yesterday where USAir Flight 427 met its doom -- haunting memorials to the 132 people who died there.
The hillside has been divided into a grid, with orange lines spray-painted on the ground at 15-foot intervals, said Russ Glenz, a Beaver County emergency worker. He is one of a team of 20 assigned to search for human remains from Thursday night's crash. Other teams have been assigned to locate airplane parts.
The job of recovering human remains was about 60 percent complete yesterday and was expected to be finished tomorrow, said Fire Marshall John Kaus.
The National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) final report on the cause of the crash is not expected for at least six months, officials said. Information from the airplane's "black box" flight recorders, engines and other evidence has investigators baffled.
Friday was largely organizational, said NTSB investigator Carl Vogt. Yesterday's search was the first day of "getting into the nitty-gritty of the investigation."
President Clinton, in his national weekly radio address yesterday, said his administration is working to ensure the safety of air travel and "to get to the bottom of what happened in the crash."
At the crash site, workers mark the location of body parts with small, triangular red flags. Deputy coroners photograph each discovery, record the location and note jewelry or other personal effects found with the remains.
Body parts removed from the site are trucked in refrigerated trailers to an Air Force base near the airport, where two hangars large enough to hold military transport planes have been turned into temporary morgues.
A team of forensic pathologists, FBI fingerprint experts, dental experts and coroners has the task of identifying bodies, something that Beaver County Coroner Wayne Tatalovich said could take weeks.
"I'd call this just about impossible," Mr. Tatalovich said of the work to identify all the remains.
When he returned to the staging center in a local shopping mall a quarter-mile away, Mr. Glenz, the emergency worker, headed for the New York Pizza and Pasta restaurant, which had been turned into a stress management clinic by University of dTC Pittsburgh counselors.
"It's important to let these guys know that whatever they feel is normal," said Dennis DiGiacomo, 25, a paramedic and counselor. "They're all on autopilot now, but when everything calms down it will hit them."
"You just can't imagine it," Mr. Glenz said, shaking his head. "Most of the victims seem to be business people. I'm just glad I didn't see any kids."