Struggle Aboard Hijacked Plane That Crashed in Pennsylavania

SHANKSVILLE, Pennsylvania (AFP) -Hijackers struggled with the crew of a hijacked United Airlines jetliner that crashed here and managed to keep the plane from its suicide mission in Washington, a member of congress said Wednesday.

Representative John Murtha, who comes from the district here, said crew members likely resisted efforts by the hijackers to fly a suicide mission into the US capital city.

Asked about the target of the plane, Murtha told reporters, "The target was Washington, DC, a major target there."

Some reports said investigators believed the hijackers were trying to crash into either Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, northwest of Washington, or the Capitol Building, the seat of the US Congress.

"I've concluded that there was a struggle on board and a heroic individual concluded, 'We're going to die, we might as well take it down here,'" Murtha said.

United Airlines Flight 93, a Boeing 757, was among four planes hijacked early Tuesday by terrorists. Two other planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, destroying the twin towers, and a third slammed into the Pentagon.

This plane, which left Newark, New Jersey, for San Francisco, went down at 10:06 am (1406 GMT) Tuesday in a wooded area some 100 kilometers (65 miles) southeast of Pittsburgh, killing all 45 people aboard, officials said.

The plane hit the ground at high speed, exploded in a fireball and created a crater some 30 feet (10 meters) long and 15 feet (five meters) deep.

Local emergency officials said they received a cell phone call at 9:58 am from a man who said he was a passenger aboard the flight.

The man said he had locked himself in the bathroom and told emergency dispatchers that the plane had been hijacked.

"We are being hijacked! We are being hijacked!" he was quoted as saying.

A California man identified as Tom Burnett reportedly called his wife and told her that somebody on the plane had been stabbed.

"We're all going to die, but three of us are going to do something," he told her. "I love you honey."

Officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were leading the probe, assisted by the Pennsylvania state police, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Investigators have cordoned off the crash site to keep onlookers out and facilitate the recovery of the two flight recorders.

The FBI has said nothing so far on the investigation, but has scheduled a press conference for noon (1600 GMT) Wednesday near the crash site.

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