Sifting Through the Wreckage

Investigators are still stymied by the crash of Flight 255

Carcasses of smoking metal, charred suitcases, melted serving carts and bodies draped with bright yellow tarpaulins dotted the deserted highway. For the investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), this nightmarish landscape was not only a grisly tableau of tragedy but also a field of evidence offering myriad clues. Their task, which began last week and may not end for months, was to solve the mystery of Northwest Airlines Flight 255. Why had the plane, a McDonnell Douglas MD-80 bound for Phoenix from Detroit's Metropolitan Airport, plunged to earth only seconds after takeoff, killing 154 passengers and crew members on...