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US Merchant Marine Academy midshipmen on a routine training cruise to Boston found themselves in the center of a tragedy on Sunday, Oct. 31, when their training vessel was the first on scene at the site of the crash of EgyptAir Flight 990.

The 225-foot academy training ship Kings Pointer, enroute to Boston, made the grim discovery about 6 a.m. after responding to a Coast Guard radio broadcast asking for help from passing ships.

The Kings Pointer encountered an oil slick and debris and immediately notified the US Coast Guard, which dispatched a helicopter to the scene. The Kings Pointer's report was the first tangible, offshore evidence of the crash.

The aircraft, with 217 passengers and crew members aboard, apparently plunged into the ocean about 60 miles south of Nantucket.

The crew of the Kings Pointer, which consisted of 17 midshipmen and nine faculty and staff members, then undertook the task of recovering passenger remains as well as debris from the aircraft. All remains and debris were turned over to the Coast Guard when its vessels arrived at the crash scene.

The Kings Pointer, a former US Navy ocean surveillance ship transferred to the academy in 1992, departed from Kings Point on Friday, Oct. 29. The midshipmen aboard the vessel, which is commanded by Capt. Robert Allee, practice vessel steering, navigation and engine maintenance during a typical training cruise.

The vessel did arrive in Boston on Nov. 1 and be berthed at the US Coast Guard Station/Boston, 427 Commercial Street, Slip 2A. The Kings Pointer was scheduled to return to the academy on Saturday, Nov. 6.

In recent years, academy midshipmen aboard the Kings Pointer and other training vessels have participated in crash site searches a number of times, when aircraft crashed near LaGuardia Airport.

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