Mangalore: Investigators on Sunday sifted through the charred wreckage of the Boeing 737 plane of Air India’s budget carrier for the cockpit voice and the flight data recorder--the Black Box--that could give vital clues for the cause of its crash that killed 158 persons.
A senior Airport Authority of India official meanwhile said an “incorrect” flight path could have caused the crash of the Air India Express aircraft from Dubai at Bajpe airport here on Saturday.
Also See AI Express plane crashes in Mangalore, 158 dead (Full Coverage)
The official, who visited the crash site, told PTI, “An incorrect flight path could have been a possible reason (for yesterday’s mishap).”
The probe by a big team of experts including from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation(DGCA) into the crash resumed at the crack of the dawn with the wreckage area cordoned off, as grieving relatives collected the victims’ remains in the worst air disaster in India in 14 years. Eight passengers miraculously survived.
A woman wails next to a photo of her sister, who died in the AirIndia Express plane crash in Mangalore, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. Aijaz Rahi / AP
According to unconfirmed reports, the throttle in the cockpit was retrieved by investigatiors and was found in a forward position suggesting that the pilot may have attempted a final thrust before the crash.
The Boeing 737-800 with a British national of Serbian origin in command overshot the ‘table-top´ runway and plunged into a ravine and burst into flames. There were 166 passengers and crew on board. Several victims were from Kasaragod and Kannur districts of neighbouring Kerala.
Investigators used mechanical metal-cutters to search for the Black Box in the twisted wreckage of the barely three-year-old plane’s remains. Heavy machinery was also being used to clear the debris scattered over a wide area.
Despite rescue teams being at the spot along with fire fighters and police personnel, they are to recover the black box nearly 30 hours after the crash. The Black Box has crucial last-minute recordings of conversation between the cockpit crew and the Air Traffic Control(ATC).
All 158 bodies have been recovered but only 72 have been identified and handed over to relatives, Air India spokesperson Harpreet Singh De said in Mumbai.
Karnataka DGP Ajai Kumar Singh said at the crash site that bodies of 104 victims of the crash have been identified and handed over to relatives.
Forensic scientists were carrying out DNA tests on the remaining bodies for their identity.
Dozens of grieving relatives arrived here on a special Air India flight from Dubai and Karnataka and Kerala to take back home the bodies of their loved ones.
A team of experts arrived here this morning from Hyderabad to conduct DNA test to help in identification of bodies charred beyond recognition.
At the hospitals, relatives of the victims were seen trying hard to identify their loved ones with their faces covered with masks.
Saturday’s disaster was the country’s deadliest crash since 1996 when two passenger planes collided in mid-air near New Delhi with the loss of all 349 on board both flights.
The last major plane crash in India was in 2000, when 61 people were killed after a passenger jet plunged into a residential area near Patna.
US-based aircraft manufacturer Boeing said it was sending a team of investigators to India to help in the inquiry.
Union civil aviation minister Praful Patel had said the aircraft did not contain itself within the limited space on touchdown and overshot the spillover area on the runway.
He had also stated that the runway was operationally compliant and technically fit for operating an aircraft of Boeing 737-800 series and the plane was just two-and-a-half years old with no history of defects or malfunctioning.