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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Fisherman's Net Snags Flight 261 Luggage

March 27, 2000|KATIE COOPER

Two pieces of luggage from the wreckage of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 have been retrieved from the waters off Anacapa Island and turned over to authorities.

A shrimp fisherman who had been dragging his net along the ocean floor near the crash site pulled up the luggage with his catch Friday afternoon.

Joe Canutt, a Buellton fisherman based out of Santa Barbara Harbor, alerted the U.S. Coast Guard after his discovery. The luggage is in storage at Santa Barbara Harbor and will be released to family members, authorities said.

Officials said one piece, a plastic suitcase, was heavily damaged and empty, but bore a name tag that matched a name on the passenger list of the flight that crashed off Anacapa Island on Jan. 31.

The other, a leather garment bag with various rips, contained men's and women's clothing as well as three pairs of shoes, Santa Barbara Police Sgt. Paul McCaffrey said.

"The clothing was in poor condition and had marine life in it," McCaffrey said.

Canutt, 63, said Friday was the first time he had trawled the area near the main debris field since the Coast Guard reopened the site to boat traffic March 16.

He said he was not surprised to find the debris.

"The net runs over the [ocean] bottom and the rollers on the net will just catch stuff like that," said Canutt, who skippers a 26-foot trawler.

Authorities said a Houston-based company that catalogs remains and belongings of airplane crash victims will retrieve the luggage from the harbor station.

All 88 passengers and crew died in the crash.

The county coroner's office has positively identified the remains of 58 victims and is using DNA testing in an attempt to identify more.

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