WASHINGTON (AP) — Shuddering and out of control, the Navy spy plane plunged toward the Earth. Inside, 24 stunned Americans worked feverishly — first to save themselves, then, when survival looked within reach, to prevent national security secrets from falling into Chinese hands.
They tossed classified materials out a hatch, smashed equipment with an ax and prepared to ditch their crippled aircraft.
The crew of the EP-3 electronic surveillance plane survived, but, unfortunately, so did some of its secrets.
A newly released Navy investigation report on the April 1, 2001, incident concludes that some of those classified materials likely were found by Chinese officials who took control of the plane when it landed on China's Hainan Island.
The crew was detained on the island for 11 days and China refused Bush administration requests to fly the damaged plane home; it was cut up and flown back to U.S. territory in pieces.