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Search continues for black box from Air India crash
Investigators continued the search Monday for the "black box" flight data recorder from an Air India Express flight that crashed in southern India on Saturday, killing 158. The plane's cockpit voice recorder was found on Sunday.
AFP - Investigators on Monday combed the wreckage of an Air India Express jet that crashed into a forested gorge with the loss of 158 lives, searching for the "black box" data recorder.
The cockpit voice recorder of the Boeing 737-800 was found late Sunday, an Air India spokesman said, but the hunt continued for the "black box", which could hold the answer to the disaster.
Only eight people among the 166 passengers and crew on the flight from Dubai to the southwest port city of Mangalore survived the crash on Saturday morning after the plane veered off the end of the runway and burst into flames.
Survivors told how they escaped as the fuselage broke into pieces and the cabin filled with thick smoke.
All 158 bodies have been recovered from but DNA tests are being conducted to determine the identities of 12 passengers.
Funerals have taken place of many of the victims, including that of co-pilot Captain H.S. Ahluwalia, 42, and Teja Kamulkar, a 24-year-old cabin crew attendant, who both lived in Mumbai.
"He had a family business but always wanted to become a pilot," one of Ahluwalia's neighbours told the Hindustan Times newspaper. "At such a young age, he had achieved everything in life."
A friend of Kamulkar said: "She was a very nice girl who had dream of flying since she was very young. She went after her dream and achieved it and then she was suddenly taken away."
Aircraft manufacturer Boeing said it was sending a team to help the investigation, which has been launched by India's civil aviation ministry.
The area around the crash site remained cordoned off, with investigators using excavators and cutting equipment to sift through the charred remains of the fuselage, an AFP photographer at the scene said.
Survivors of India's worst air crash since nearly 350 people were killed when two planes collided in mid-air over New Delhi in 1996, described hearing a loud thud shortly after touchdown at Mangalore's hill-top airport.
Landing conditions were fair with good visibility, officials said, and there had been no distress call from the cockpit.
Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel described the chief pilot, a British national of Serbian origin, as a "very experienced" flier, who had logged 10,000 hours of flying time.
He told reporters on Saturday it was too early to determine the exact cause of the crash but he said that the sanded safety area surrounding the runway in the event of an overshoot was shorter than at some airports.
Air India Express is a budget airline operated as a subsidiary by the state-run carrier. Many of the passengers were migrant workers returning from jobs in the Gulf to visit their families.
India's last major plane crash was in 2000, when 61 people were killed after a passenger jet plunged into a residential area near the eastern city of Patna.
The country's air safety record has been good in recent years despite the rapid increase in airlines keen to serve increasingly wealthy domestic customers.
Saturday's disaster came as Air India is struggling to turn around its finances after posting a net loss of more than one billion dollars last year.