THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
11:30 A.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: Good morning, everyone. There is obviously a great deal of concern here at the White House about the reports that I'm sure you have all seen that Secretary Ron Brown's aircraft is unaccounted for on a flight as part of his delegation that he has been leading in former Yugoslavia. The Secretary, our understanding is at this point, was flying from Tuzla to Dubrovnik and is now roughly three hours overdue for his scheduled landing there.
We were first notified about this by Ambassador Peter Galbraith, our ambassador to Croatia, who phoned the State Department to report that the Secretary's plane had not arrived on schedule. You will see right now a lot of conflicting reports about -- from all sorts of sources, about what they think has happened. The answer is, at the moment we just don't know.
The President is very concerned, obviously, as you can imagine. He has spoken to Mrs. Brown within the last half-hour. He has decided to remain here at the White House and not proceed with his schedule so that he can get further reports from National Security Advisor Tony Lake.
We have assembled a task force at the U.S. State Department, which we do in circumstances like this to get information, to work with other governments that might have information, and to deal with any American citizens and their families who might have been part of that flight. And the Pentagon, because of our military presence in the theater, will be putting together further information and be in a position to brief later on in the day.
That's really all I have at this point.
Q Do you have information on what kind of plane it was?
Q Private plane?
MR. MCCURRY: There are conflicting reports about the type of plane, although it is apparently a U.S. Air Force plane.
Q U.S. Air Force?
MR. MCCURRY: We can confirm all that? Okay. We know that the plane was a U.S. Air Force T-43, which is their military equivalent of a 737, and then we do have, because of our military presence in the area we are assisting search and rescue efforts that are underway. I believe some other governments have indicated that they're participating in the search and rescue. They've got both helicopters and C-130s involved in that.
There is a report now that we can confirm that there is wreckage in the water, but we cannot confirm at this point that wreckage is, in fact, Secretary Brown's plane.
Q Is there any indication of foul play?
MR. MCCURRY: That's the only information we've got.
Q Any indication of foul play, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: None that I have at this point.
Q Were there CEOs with him, Mike?
Q What about the manifest?
MR. MCCURRY: We are working to verify the manifest at this point.
Q Do you know how many people were on that plane, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: We don't know. We have conflicting reports about that, that indicate perhaps as many as a half a dozen passengers, but again, we need to confirm that.
Q And the plane's destination?
MR. MCCURRY: Was Dubrovnik.
MR. MCCURRY: Tuzla -- from Tuzla to Dubrovnik.
Q And what exactly was he doing there, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, Secretary Brown, as you know, was on a very important mission to build support for both trade ties and economic assistance to Former Yugoslavia as we implement the civilian aspects of the peace accords that have brought some measure of peace to Bosnia and to Former Yugoslavia. He was working to assist U.S. companies in the private sector in developing closer trade ties and economic ties with those countries as they emerge from the shadows of the Civil War.
Q Was his plane unescorted?
MR. MCCURRY: We don't know that.
MR. MCCURRY: We have not verified the manifest.
Q -- part of the mission?
MR. MCCURRY: He had a large delegation of both private sector leaders and other U.S. government employees who were doing various aspects of the trip at various points, which is why we want to make sure we know for certain the manifest before we say anything further about it.
Q -- American, the team that was with him?
MR. MCCURRY: We need to verify that and we'll give you updates later in the day.
Q When did he leave Lille, Mike? He had been, I gather, at a ministerial meeting in Lille before this, or when did he enter the theatre of --
MR. MCCURRY: It was within the last several days, if my recollection is correct. He was at the G-7 ministerial meeting in Lille up until the weekend, right? Yes.
Q Roughly, where is the wreckage?
MR. MCCURRY: We'll get you more information about that as it's available.
Q When you say the water, it's the Adriatic?
MR. MCCURRY: That is the Adriatic off the coast of Dubrovnik, yes.
Q Does the sighting of the wreckage and the location of the wreckage give you some sense that it was along the flight path?
MR. MCCURRY: We'll have to develop that information for you. We are at the very early stages of reporting on this, and as we get more reliable information, it will be coming to you, as I said, from the Pentagon. We are going to not plan to do any further briefing here at the White House because the best source of information, we believe, will be the Pentagon. And I'll keep you apprised here later in the day about the President's activity.
Q Mike, it's our understanding there was quite bad weather in that --
MR. MCCURRY: We do have reports that the weather was very bad, yes.
Q Were there any prior reports of plane trouble?
MR. MCCURRY: Not that I'm aware of, but, again, let's develop more facts for you and then we'll report back.
Q Are you going to brief again?
MR. MCCURRY: Much later today.
END 11:35 A.M.EST