Family of missing Gulf War pilot wants probe

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The family of a Navy pilot missing since the 1991 Gulf War believes he is still alive and wants the United States to accept an Iraqi invitation to send a delegation to investigate his disappearance, their lawyer said Tuesday.

Lt. Cmdr. Scott Speicher, then 33, became the first listed American casualty of the war when his Navy FA-18 Hornet was shot down in Iraq on Jan. 17, 1991.

There is a good chance that he survived by ejecting from his plane and is imprisoned, said attorney Cindy Laquidara, who represents Speicher's family.

Speicher was a Kansas City native whose family moved to Florida when he was 15.

U.S. officials have said Speicher's flight suit was found and there have been persistent intelligence reports about a U.S. pilot held in Baghdad. Last year, the Pentagon changed his status from killed in action to missing in action. All other U.S. serviceman killed or captured during the conflict have been accounted for.

A statement issued Sunday by an unidentified Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman said Iraq is ready to receive a U.S. delegation to investigate what happened to Speicher.

"We should pursue every avenue," Laquidara said.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the administration didn't have enough information to evaluate the Iraqi statement.

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