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Students First on Air Crash Scene

November 1, 1999

BOSTON (AP) _ The first people on the scene of the EgyptAir crash were a group of Merchant Marine students aboard a training ship, and they pulled pieces of wreckage, teddy bears and human remains from the ocean.

The 25 crew members of the Kings Pointer, based at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y., were about 40 miles from the crash site on a routine training mission. The crew heard a Coast Guard distress message about a missing plane.

Just after 6 a.m., the 224-foot ship came across a half-mile wide oil slick. The smell of jet fuel was overwhelming, said Chris Kincaid, the 22-year-old student captain of the ship.

They floated past debris from Flight 990 _ Styrofoam cups, plastic bags _ as they neared the center of the slick.

``It basically looked like somebody had emptied their trash Dumpster,″ Kincaid said Monday.

The young merchant crewmen found the first body from the jetliner.

Kincaid and Bryan Grube, the ship’s third mate, set off in an inflatable raft, skimming what they could from the water _ shoes, purses, teddy bears.

The crew spent the rest of Sunday filling plastic bags with human remains, pieces of the wreckage and personal effects _ enough to fill four 32-foot long Coast Guard boats.

For Grube, a 24-year-old from Seattle, the scene was hard to fathom.

``You try to remember you’re out there trying to find something, to find out why this airplane crashed,″ he said.

The sailors didn’t think anyone could have survived, but they kept looking.

``We did sit down and ponder it and say `My God,‴ said Kincaid, a Houston native. ``But there was a job at hand and that needed to be done.″

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