Authorities are 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 has helped searchers by exposing more of the large 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.
Emergency workers recovered two bodies over the weekend and sent them to a medical examiner’s office for autopsies. The search for the third body continued Tuesday.
Crews have used airboats and helicopters to circle the crash scene, where white chunks of fuselage can 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.
The bodies recovered 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, according to statement late Monday from Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne.
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. Archuleta was a new father and weeks away from starting his “dream” job flying for United Airlines, according to Don Dalton, Archuleta’s roommate.
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 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.