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Recovery Effort Back To Full Speed For First Time In More Than Week

September 8, 1996

SHINNECOCK, N.Y. (AP) _ Divers and a giant underwater robot retrieved pieces of fallen TWA Flight 800 on Sunday, the first full day of salvage work after a weeklong delay caused by back-to-back hurricanes.

Rough seas whipped up first by Hurricane Edouard, then just days later by Hurricane Fran, calmed earlier than officials had expected.

``We’ve got a good day today,″ said Lt. Nicholas Balice, a Navy spokesman. ``We’re back in full operation. They’re bringing up wreckage.″

Scuba divers wearing oxygen tanks and Navy divers who receive oxygen from the surface were able to work in a 400-square-yard area of wreckage where most of the Boeing 747 landed after exploding in the sky on July 17.

The massive underwater salvage robot also was working.

All 230 aboard people aboard died after when the Paris-bound jet blew apart over the Atlantic off the southern coast of Long Island. The cause has not been determined. Possibilities under investigation include a bomb, a missile or an unprecedented mechanical malfunction.

Narrowing the cause is dependent on retrieving the remaining 30 percent of the plane still unrecovered. Visibility at 110 below the surface was about 5 feet, up from the previous week, when visibility fell to just inches.

``Visibility still isn’t the best, but it’s a lot better than we’ve had,″ Balice said.

It was the first full day of salvage work since Edouard headed north toward Long Island. It veered off without making major landfall, but kicked up heavy seas. Next came Fran, which came ashore in North Carolina but hit much of the East Coast with large surf.

The Navy predicted last Thursday it couldn’t return to full operation until Tuesday or Wednesday, so Sunday’s resumption was welcome news for investigators.

The arrival of new wreckage was eagerly awaited at an aircraft hangar where the plane is being reassembled by engineers hunting for patterns of damage that might help explain the crash.

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