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Another 14 victims of Flight 93 identified

Saturday, October 27, 2001

By Don Hopey, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Investigators have positively identified the remains of another 14 persons aboard United Airlines Flight 93 and Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller said the investigation could conclude more quickly than expected.

At the same time, the high winds that buffeted the area over the last few days have dislodged additional airplane parts -- seat cushions, wiring, carpet fragments and pieces of metal -- from trees near the crash site.

"It's all aircraft parts, no human remains," Miller said. "We've collected them in 10 recycling bin-sized containers and eventually we'll turn them all over to United."

Yesterday's confirmation of victims' identities by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology DNA lab in Rockville, Md., means that 34 of the 44 people who were aboard the jetliner crashed Sept. 11. have been identified.

Flight 93 bound for San Francisco from Newark, N.J., had two pilots, five flight attendants and 37 passengers aboard when it crashed in Stonycreek. Four were hijackers who seized control of the Boeing 757 as it approached Cleveland; they were possibly diverting the plane to Washington, D.C., when a battle for control of the jetliner took place with the other passengers.

"We're progressing at a very steady pace in identifying the victims," Miller said. "Originally we thought it might take four to six months, but things are moving faster than we thought."

Miller said the lab is continuing to test DNA material to verify the deaths of the last six crash victims.

He said DNA tests won't be able to identify the four hijackers on board.

"To make a DNA identification we need something from the victims or their family members -- personal effects, or blood samples -- to match," Miller said. "We don't have that kind of information about the terrorists."

Identification of the victims through DNA testing allows the coroner to issue death certificates and return the fragmented remains to the families.

Miller said he will identify as many of the remains as he can. Remains that can't be identified will be interred at a grave in Somerset County.

"We already have issued presumptive death certificates so families could begin to take care of the affairs of those persons we haven't identified," Miller said. "Now we can say for sure on 34 of the victims and that gives the families, some of whom have held memorial services, more of a sense of closure."

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