Good afternoon and thank you for coming. FBI Director Louis Freeh and I have just concluded a very good trip to the Smit Pioneer, which we'll discuss shortly. On returning once again to Rhode Island, I would be remiss if I did not thank Governor Lincoln Almond and his administration for everything they have done to assist in this investigation of the crash of EgyptAir flight 990. As you know, this flight did not originate in Rhode Island, it was not destined for Rhode Island, and it did not crash in Rhode Island.
But when we were organizing this investigation in the early hours of October 31, we felt that this would be the best staging area for, first, the search and rescue operation, and then the search and recovery effort.
Governor Almond immediately offered his complete cooperation to us, and placed the organizational resources of the state at our disposal. Although our task is not complete, we are most appreciative for the help from the people of Rhode Island.
It has been six weeks since the tragic loss of flight 990. I think it's appropriate that the people of the United States and Egypt not forget the literally thousands of dedicated people who have assisted in the investigation of this tragedy. First, the men and women of the U.S. Navy, the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who worked on the initial search and rescue operation, and the follow-on efforts to find and recover the flight recorders from more than 250 feet of water. And, of course, we can't forget the investigators from the NTSB and the FBI, assisted by the Government of Egypt, EgyptAir, FAA, Boeing, Pratt & Whitney. These investigators have traveled throughout the world gathering information.
Within days of this accident, about 300 family members of those aboard flight 990 arrived in Newport and were assisted by a wide variety of organizations here: Governor Almond's office, the State Attorney General, the State Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Rhode Island State Police, the management and staff of the Doubletree Hotel, the Newport Police, the Red Cross, FEMA, the Coast Guard, the Navy, the U. S. Public Health Service and many local residents who volunteered their time.
In the weeks since the accident, facilities here in Davisville, provided by the state of Rhode Island, have been prepared for the recovery effort now underway. A large building on Pier 2 has been converted into a secure facility and is now ready to receive the aircraft wreckage. The 100 ft. by 300 ft. building was improved by adding a floor, heating system and security doors. In addition existing lights, a 3-ton crane and the roof were repaired.
A nearby building was converted to a command post for the NTSB, FBI and the Navy and was outfitted with office equipment, furniture and utilities.
A 100 ft. by 500 ft. warehouse on the grounds has had heat added, doors secured, floor smoothed, and lights added. It will be used to store personal effects and cabin interior wreckage.
A former gymnasium has been converted into a morgue, by removing the gym floor, reinforcing the roof beams, adding heat and mobilizing morgue equipment.
Earlier today, Director Freeh and I flew by helicopter to the Smit Pioneer, which was positioned over the wreckage site last night. We observed the recovery effort and were briefed by personnel from the NTSB, the FBI, the Navy, the U.S. Public Health Service, and Oceaneering Technologies, Inc.
As you know the NTSB asked the Navy to contract with Oceaneering Technologies to obtain services of the Smit Pioneer. The Smit Pioneer arrived at Quonest Point about 1:00 am Tuesday. Equipment and other needed provisions were loaded onto the ship. Modifications included installation of spider-type and clamshell grabs for retrieval of debris from the ocean floor, heavy material handling equipment, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) system, a precision navigation system, and nearly 60 large containers for storage of wreckage.
There are approximately 90 personnel aboard the vessel including officials from the NTSB, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Navy, Oceaneering Technologies and the ship's crew. The ship is scheduled to be out for about 10 days, weather permitting.
Before I introduce Director Freeh, I want to note that the Jewish observance of Hannukah has just ended, the Islamic feast of Ramadan has just begun, and Christians are entering one of the most joyous seasons of their year. For the families of the 217 persons who lost their lives, these holidays will never be the same. I hope they can receive some solace from knowing that there are people from many countries and faiths working to find out what caused the crash of flight 990.