Investigators seek remains in alley where 9/11 jet parts fell

The NYPD says part of a landing gear

The NYPD says part of a landing gear from one of the commercial airliners destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001 was discovered wedged between the rear of 51 Park Place and the rear of the building behind it -- 50 Murray St. -- in lower Manhattan. (April 26, 2013) (Credit: NYPD)

Investigators dug through debris Tuesday looking for human remains in an alley where parts from a doomed 9/11 jet were found just blocks from Ground Zero.

The search team included members of the FDNY, the NYPD and the medical examiner's office and was confined to the area where the parts were found wedged in a tight space between a building at 51 Park Place and another at 50 Murray St.

More than a decade after the attacks on the World Trade Center, the search for remains still takes a toll, said FDNY Assistant Fire Chief Ronald Spadafora.

"We've been doing this from the beginning . . . the raking and sifting," Spadafora said as firefighters in dusty gear used rakes, sledgehammers and axes to clear the space and sift through the detritus with screens and water. "It's been 11 years, and it tears away at you."

Spadafora said 2 cubic feet of debris was sifted and removed. The airplane part, a 5-foot-tall piece of a wing-flap control system belonging to one of the jetliners that crashed into the Twin Towers, is expected to be removed Wednesday.

Late Tuesday afternoon, NYPD Crime Special Unit officers carried out several brown evidence bags from the area, which is under guard by the NYPD and considered a crime scene.

"We are pretty much wrapped up today, but tomorrow is the big day," said one Special Crime Unit officer at the scene, referring to the removal of the aircraft part.

Spadafora said the walls surrounding the piece of aircraft were "questionable" in their stability but three or four options were being considered to carefully remove the part.

Police officers are guarding the front of the building. Joan Levine, who works at a nearby bank and said she was working there on the day of the attacks, wanted to help investigators Tuesday by providing them with a photograph someone took of aircraft debris that had landed on the street on 9/11.

"There were people laying on the street that day . . . my friend died," said Levine, who couldn't finish talking as tears welled up in her eyes as she remembered the attacks.

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