The following statement was released this afternoon by National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Jim Hall.
The Smit Pioneer returned to port at Quonset Point, Rhode Island at 6:00 a.m. today. It is off-loading its cargo of aircraft wreckage from EgyptAir flight 990. Human remains that were recovered during its 10-day mission have been transferred to the jurisdiction of the Rhode Island Medical Examiner, Dr. Elizabeth LaPosata.
As you know, the Smit Pioneer left Quonset Point on Sunday, December 12. After being positioned over the wreckage area that night, it began recovering human remains and wreckage with a clamshell bucket. More than 750 deployments of the bucket were completed during the mission. Aircraft wreckage has been placed into 16 20-foot by 8-foot by 8-foot containers, which will be moved to a hangar at Quonset Point.
It is not possible to say at this time how much of the aircraft has been recovered. However, our investigators believe that parts from all areas of the aircraft have been recovered, most of which are very small due to the extreme fragmentation of the aircraft fuselage. Some larger pieces were recovered, including a piece of aircraft structure almost 20 feet long. Once the wreckage is laid out in a hangar to dry, investigators will examine it for potential clues to the cause of the crash. This process will take several weeks.
Sometime over the next two weeks, the U.S. Navy will dispatch a submarine to video-map the wreckage recovery area to help the Board evaluate further requirements for recovery.
I want to thank the men and women from the United States Navy, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board, EgyptAir, the U.S. Public Health Service, the Rhode Island Medical Examiner's Office and Oceaneering Technologies for their work aboard the ship, which encountered seas high enough on several occasions to require the suspension of operations.
We will issue further advisories as circumstances warrant.
Note: Pool photography was conducted today of the off-loading procedure. Please contact CBS Television News for the video pool and either the Associated Press, Reuters or Agence France Press for still photography.