Today, another bit of Friday FOIA Fun – this time, a leftover from Sunshine Week, delayed while I tried to find the best way to present the contents.
As regular readers will recall, I’ve been doing a mostly-regular weekly post on the federal Freedom of Information Act. In past weeks, I’ve shown some of the range of the Act – in particular, how you can use it to get “records” from the government that aren’t just written works. A few weeks ago, I posted an interactive training CD-ROM. Today, some very interesting photographs…
In January 2007, a Turkish-registered Antonov AN-26 crashed outside Balad Air Force Base in northern Iraq. United States Air Force personnel assisted at the crash site. No report on the incident has ever been released, and a variety of causes – including politics – have conspired to surround the incident with mystery and controversy.
These are pictures of the crash site – perhaps the first such photos to be made public in the fifteen months since the crash.
The original intent in getting these images was twofold – demonstrate the flexibility of what constitutes “records” under the Freedom of Information Act, and let people try and decide for themselves whether the Antonov has been shot down or not – crash analysis by crowdsourcing, if you will. The latter, alas, will probably not be possible, as the wreckage was, shall we say, not in good shape:
Scattered across a farm field, over an estimated square mile, the plane and its contents were torn to pieces and consumed by flames. The largest piece of wreckage was the very tail of the plane, where the airline logo was still faintly visible:
Pieces were scattered far and wide – which suggests to me that the plane might have broken up in the air… but I’m no crash investigator.
The tail markings, just visible in a photo above, help identify the plane as belonging to Arientur-M, but if you needed further confirmation, the pilot’s manual was found:
The engines were found more-or-less intact, hundreds of feet apart. Here’s one of them, somewhat the worse for wear:
In addition to taking photos of the wreckage, USAF personnel also plotted out the debris using GPS units; here one marks the location of part of a propeller blade:
This was a considerable task, given the large amount of wreckage, and how widely spread-out it was:
It wasn’t just airplane parts whose locations were plotted; some other items were located by GPS, as well:
We’ll take a closer look at the Antonov’s cargo on Monday, and try to answer some questions about what it was or was not doing when it crashed. Unfortunately, I suspect the end result is going to be the creation of more questions than answers… but such is life, I’m afraid.
After a variety of delays, almost a gigabyte of photos of the crash scene were released by the folks at Balad, burnt on a DVD-ROM. Certain unspecified photos were withheld because of their “sensitivity”; I presume they have to do with the thirty-four souls on board who perished in the crash. It’s worth pointing out that there are no signs of any sort of body-recovery efforts in any of the photos released to me; I believe that effort may have been completed by the time the personnel in question arrived on the scene. If the EXIF data in the photos is correct, they were taken between roughly 3:30pm and 4:30pm on January 9th (with a pair of Nikon D2x’s and a Canon A620, if you’re curious.), which is nominally just a few hours after the crash. A few pieces of wreckage were still burning when these photos were taken.