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Coast Guard Resumes Search for Plane Missing With Eight People

December 5, 1989

NEW SHOREHAM, R.I. (AP) _ The search for a missing commuter plane with eight people aboard resumed today with a Coast Guard ship carrying sophisticated sonar to look for wreckage in about 100 feet of water.

The search of Block Island Sound for a twin-engine New England Airlines plane missing since Nov. 28 was postponed Monday by heavy waves and high wind, said Coast Guard Lt. Hank Leeper.

Seas of 4 to 8 feet were whipped by wind blowing at 20 to 35 knots.

″That’s prohibitive for us for operating″ the side-scanning sonar, which does not work well in waves of more than 6 feet, said Richard Walker, an engineer with the Coast Guard Research and Development Center in Groton, Conn.

Seas today averaged 2 to 3 feet with wind under 12 mph, said Seaman Michael Allard at the Point Judith Coast Guard Station.

The plane took off from Block Island on a night flight to Westerly, 17 miles across the sound. Floating debris and the bodies of two dogs belonging to a passenger indicated the Britten-Norman Islander broke up, a National Transportation Safety Board spokesman said.

Leeper said searchers would concentrate on a three-square-mile ″primary″ area where a study of wind and tide action made the greatest probability of finding the wreckage. They hoped to cover that in a day with the sonar.

The sonar will ″show anything, rock outcroppings ... it looks very much like an aerial photograph, as if the water were removed,″ said John Fish, president of American Underwater Search and Survey Inc., of Cataumet, Mass., which provided the equipment.

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