BEIJING (AP) — The second “black box” of a China Eastern Boeing 737-800 was discovered on Sunday, raising hopes it could shed light on why the passenger plane plunged in an area remote mountainous region of southern China last week, killing all 132 people. people on board.
Firefighters involved in the search found the flight data recorder on a mountain slope about 40 meters (130 feet) from the point of impact and 1.5 meters (5 feet) underground, media said officials. Experts have confirmed that this is the second black box. The impact of the accident created a pit 20 meters (65 ft) deep in the side of the mountain and widely scattered the debris.
Researchers were looking for the data recorder after finding the cockpit voice recorder four days ago. The two black boxes should help investigators determine what caused the plane to plummet 29,000 feet (8,800 meters) approximately one hour into the flight and shortly before it began its descent.
The remote setting and the wet and muddy conditions made it difficult to find the black boxes and wreckage. Footage released by CGTN, the international arm of CCTV, showed an official holding an orange cylindrical object at the scene with the words “FLIGHT RECORDER” and “DO NOT OPEN” written on it. It appeared slightly dented but intact.
The search was halted on Sunday afternoon for a three-minute silence for the 123 passengers and nine crew members. The rescuers took off their helmets and the police and soldiers their caps. Standing in groups in formation, they nodded as the sirens sounded.
Flight MU5735 crashed on Monday en route from the city of Kunming in southeast China to Guangzhou, a major city and export manufacturing hub near Hong Kong. An air traffic controller tried to contact the pilots several times after seeing the plane’s altitude drop sharply, but got no response, officials said.
The cockpit voice recorder, also an orange cylinder, was found two days later on Wednesday. It was sent to a laboratory in Beijing for examination and analysis, and the flight data recorder was also sent to the Chinese capital for decoding.
Search teams scoured the site outside of Wuzhou city for days with shovels and other hand tools. Construction excavators have been brought in to remove earth and clear wider passages to the site, and pumps are used to drain collected rainwater. Officials said monitors had been installed to detect possible landslides due to rain and search activities that could endanger workers.
Authorities announced on Saturday evening that there were no survivors. DNA analysis confirmed the identities of 120 of those on board, they said. The researchers found identity cards and bank cards belonging to the victims.
Boeing Co. said in a statement that a technical team from Boeing is supporting the US National Transportation Safety Board and the Civil Aviation Administration of China, which will lead the investigation into the crash.
China Eastern, one of China’s four major airlines, and its subsidiaries have grounded all their Boeing 737-800s, a total of 223 aircraft. The carrier said the grounding was a precaution and not a sign of trouble with the planes.
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