FBI postpones planned aerial operation

An aerial photo taken over Oak Beach. (Dec. An aerial photo taken over Oak Beach. (Dec. 16, 2010) Photo Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

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Technical problems on an FBI helicopter forced officials to postpone a planned aerial operation to search for more human remains on a South Shore barrier island Friday, officials said.

With traffic stopped on Ocean Parkway in the early afternoon, Suffolk police Insp. Stuart Cameron of the special patrol bureau said the operation was to be delayed because of a technical issue.

FBI spokesman James Margolin said late Friday that the problem was being addressed and that the helicopter probably would be back in the air Monday.

He and other officials have declined to describe the technology or imaging process, which is to create a high-resolution picture of the island and some surrounding areas.

On Thursday, a fixed-wing airplane traveled from FBI headquarters in Quantico, Va., to assist with the investigation. That flight was to be followed Friday by a helicopter flight.

Margolin said the fixed-wing portion of the operation was complete.

Suffolk officials said they did not expect to get the result of the flyovers for several days. The images will be interpreted with the help of FBI technicians and will be used to target future ground searches if warranted.

The parkway, which officials said had to be cleared of cars in order to properly calibrate imaging equipment, was reopened just before 4 p.m.

Neither county police department has plans for more canvasses this weekend.

A total of eight sets of human remains in Suffolk and a skull and some bones in Nassau have been recovered on the island since December. The initial four discovered in the Gilgo Beach area last December all proved to be young women in their 20s, the suspected victims of a serial killer.

Officials found all of the remains while searching for Shannan Gilbert, 24. The Jersey City woman disappeared nearly a year ago in Oak Beach.

On Friday, Suffolk police divers returned for a third day this week to Hemlock Cove, on the Great South Bay. After a civilian pointed out to police a bone that had washed up on the shore next to a parking lot at Oak Beach, police took it away for a later determination if it's animal or human, according to a Suffolk police official.

With Matthew Chayes

and Tania Lopez

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