NOAA 99-R828
Contact: Greg Hernandez


For its efforts during the multi-agency search for John F. Kennedy Jr.'s aircraft, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was one of several government agencies honored by the U.S. Coast Guard with a unified command award.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney E. Slater and Coast Guard Commandant Admiral James M. Loy, during a solemn ceremony at the Coast Guard Integrated Support Command in Boston on Friday, honored personnel from the Department of Transportation, FAA, NOAA, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Air Force, the National Transportation Safety Board, and State Police, Environmental Police, and many local agencies "for exceptionally meritorious service from 17 July 1999 to 23 July 1999 in the search for and recovery of the downed aircraft carrying John F. Kennedy, Jr.; his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy; and her sister, Lauren Bessette. Members of the Unified Command distinguished themselves during this complex operation with their professional expertise and poise."

Uniformed service crews received the Coast Guard Unit Commendation and civilians received Coast Guard Public Service Commendations.

In NOAA's role in the overall effort, the agency's hydrographic survey ships Rude and Whiting searched the sea floor for wreckage of the downed aircraft. The ships were equipped with side-scan sonar, which is used to map the sea floor for the nation's nautical charts. An on-shore team, using the sonar data, created charts pinpointing potential wreckage sites. Rude located the position of the wreckage; Navy personnel were then able to find and recover the victims' bodies and the aircraft fuselage.

The Coast Guard award noted the "demonstrated balance among operational issues, family needs and public information demands when the operation shifted from a search and rescue operation to a search and recovery operation. The effectiveness of the recovery efforts provided a sense of closure for the families, facilitated investigations into the cause of the accident, curtailed unwarranted speculation, and precluded unsafe and unauthorized private salvage efforts. The professionalism, pride, and devotion to duty displayed by all responding units are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard," according to the commendation.