9/11 landing gear discovery site to be searched for human remains

A New York City Medical Examiner Mobile Command A New York City Medical Examiner Mobile Command Center is parked in front of 51 Park Pl. in Manhattan. A part of a landing gear, apparently from one of the commercial airliners destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001, has been discovered wedged between the rear of 51 Park Pl. and the rear of the building behind it, 50 Murray St. (April 28, 2013). Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

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The search for human remains is to begin early Tuesday at the lower Manhattan site where a piece of landing gear from a jet similar to those involved in the 9/11 terror attacks was discovered last week, city officials said Sunday.

The soil at and around the 51 Park Place property will be sifted for human remains of 9/11 victims, Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for the city's chief medical examiner, said Sunday.

A rusted, twisted metal portion of Boeing 767 landing gear that authorities said may have belonged to one of two airplanes hijacked by al-Qaida terrorists and flown into the Twin Towers was found Wednesday -- nearly 12 years after the attacks -- wedged in a narrow gap between two buildings three blocks from the World Trade Center.

The medical examiner's office moved equipment Sunday to the site in preparation for the sifting work, Borakove said. It also began taking precautions with water accessibility and other utilities in the area, she said.

A standard health and safety evaluation for signs of toxicity as of Sunday was "well on its way to being complete," Borakove said. "We are following all protocols."

The sifting operation, she said, is separate from but similar to that being conducted by her office at a former landfill on Staten Island where several fragments that are potentially the remains of 9/11 victims have been found.

Human remains have not been identified for about 40 percent of the approximately 2,700 World Trade Center victims, according to the Sept. 11 Memorial.

NYPD officials Sunday said the area where the 5-foot-long aircraft part was found was being safeguarded by police just as a crime scene would be. An NYPD cruiser sat in watch outside the scene Sunday, where a medical examiner mobile command center was set up.

The part was discovered by surveyors behind 51 Park Place, now a Muslim prayer space and in 2010 the center of national controversy amid its owners' plans to erect a larger mosque and community center.