Crash Debris Found 8
By Debra Erdley
A southeasterly wind and a 3-year-old's keen eye brought the crash of
United Airlines Flight 93 home to a family in tiny New Baltimore
borough, more than eight miles from the Somerset County crash site.
Three-year-old Hunter Stoe was helping his father, Andy, with the
trash Wednesday night when he spied a slip of paper on the grass near
the trash can.
When Andy Stoe glanced at the paper, ready to toss it in the trash,
he saw it was a charred payroll check made out to Antonio B. Costa of
San Jose, Calif.
Investigators now concede the canceled check and a portion of a
charred brokerage statement Stoe found nearby on Thursday afternoon are
from the crash.
Costa, a 59-year-old construction worker, was not a passenger on
"He's here and fine," his daughter-in-law Leeza Costa said from her
San Jose home yesterday afternoon. "We can't figure out how it got there
unless maybe they were moving mail or documents for a bank."
Stoe said authorities initially insisted crash debris could not have
traveled over a mountain ridge more than eight miles from the crash.
Late yesterday afternoon, however, FBI Special Agent Bill Crowley
said experts from the National Transportation Safety Board had checked
weather reports and determined that lightweight materials might well
have traveled over the mountain by a southwest wind that reached a speed
of 9 knots.
"The NTSB says it is not only plausible, but probable," said Crowley.
About two miles from the crash site, Ron Trent, a 63-year-old
third-generation farmer, never imagined anything like it could happen so
close to his home. He was stunned when agents asked him to postpone
cutting his hay until they can search the field.
Looking over his farm's rolling hills, Trent shoved his cap back on
his head and scratched his chin.
"I believe this country is in a bad situation, the situation this
country is in right now, and I don't think it's going to get any better.
"That sure is pretty. I'm sure glad I grew up here. I guess it (the
crash) really put Shanksville on the map," he said.
Farther down the road, searchers had tied flags in one of David
Scott's cornfields to mark areas they wanted to search more closely.
"It's just too bad we couldn't be on the map for something other than
disaster," said Scott, chatting with neighbors William Flamm and Meno
Yoder, as a state police helicopter circled low over his fields.
Investigators also descended on nearby Indian Lake. The resort
community 2 miles from the crash also became part of the official search
area after small pieces of crash debris were recovered from the 750-acre
John Fleegle, an Indian Lake Marina employee, said FBI agents were
skeptical of his reports about debris in the lake until they traveled to
the lake shore Wednesday afternoon.
Fleegle, marina owner Jim Brant and two of Brant's employees were
among the dozens who witnessed the crash from Indian Lake. Fleegle had
just returned to the marina to get fuel for a boat that had run out of
gas when Carol Delasko called him into the
drydock barn to watch news of the World Trade Center attack.
"All of a sudden the lights flickered and we joked that maybe they
were coming for us. Then we heard engines screaming close overhead. The
building shook. We ran out, heard the explosion and saw a fireball
mushroom," said Fleegle, pointing to a clearing on a ridge at the far
end of the lake.
Delasko, who ran outside moments later, said
she thought someone had blown up a boat on the lake. "It just looked
like confetti raining down all over the air above the lake," she said.
Fleegle, Brant and a fellow marina worker, Tom Spinelli, jumped in a
truck and rushed to the crash site.
In the woods, they saw only a crater and tiny pieces of debris.
Fleegle said he climbed on the roof of an abandoned cabin and tossed
down a burning seat cushion that had landed there.
By Wednesday morning, crash debris began washing ashore at the
marina. Fleegle said there was something that looked like a rib bone
amid pieces of seats, small chunks of melted plastic and checks.
He said FBI agents who spent the afternoon patrolling the lake in
rented boats eventually carted away a large garbage bag full of debris.
Kate Moses, a former Pittsburgh woman whose retirement home is
located near the Indian Lake golf course far from the lake, said she
felt the impact from the crash and went to look outside. Later, her
neighbor found a brokerage statement for a $2 million stock account had
landed in her yard.
"How could that have happened? It's just a horrifying thought. I'll
never be the same. I know that," said Moses.
A confirmed Broadway buff who loves New York, Moses said the
terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the hijacking that ended
near her Somerset County home have made her hesitant to even consider
traveling to New York anytime soon.
Back in New Baltimore, Andy Stoe is keeping track of everything so he
can explain it all to Hunter when the toddler gets a little older.
And he holds the peace of his tiny valley town more precious than
"It could have crashed here just as easy as anywhere. Thank God they
put it down somewhere unpopulated," said Stoe, as Hunter pushed a toy
bulldozer through his sandbox.
S.C. Spangler photos (color page A1)
Tribune-Review graphic (map of debris field)