China Eastern Airlines plane crash rescuers find no survivors

Rescue members work at the site where a China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane flying from Kunming to Guangzhou crashed, in Wuzhou, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China on 21 March 2022 (Photo: Reuters)
Rescue members work at the site where a China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane flying from Kunming to Guangzhou crashed, in Wuzhou, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China on 21 March 2022 (Photo: Reuters)


A listed company’s chief financial officer and people working for an accounting firm among those on board

HONG KONG : Rescuers combed through the wreckage Tuesday of the plane that crashed in southern China but haven’t found any survivors at the site where a China Eastern Airlines Corp. Boeing 737 carrying 132 people plummeted to the ground a day earlier.

They collected identification cards and a wallet, among other items that may have belonged to the passengers, footage from state broadcaster China Central Television showed on Tuesday. Scraps and broken components from the plane scattered on dirt paths and amid fallen branches, according to a video by the Chinese Communist Party’s flagship publication People’s Daily.

“Wreckage and debris of the crashed plane have been found at the scene, but up until now, none of those on board who lost contact have been found," CCTV said Tuesday morning. If all 132 people on board Monday’s flight died, it would be China’s deadliest air crash in almost three decades.

The Boeing Co. 737-800 flying from the southwestern city of Kunming to the southern metropolis of Guangzhou was at cruising altitude on Monday before nosediving at 2:20 p.m. local time, according to flight-tracking data, a trajectory some air safety experts said was unusual. The plane was transporting nine crew members and 123 passengers.

The plane wreckage was strewn across a forested mountainous region in Guangxi, which makes the search for the aircraft’s black box more difficult, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing rescuers. Investigators try to find and analyze the plane’s flight-data recorder and cockpit voice recorder to help gain insight into a flight’s final moments, though crash investigations often take months or years.

China’s Vice Premier Liu He and an official in Beijing’s cabinet led a team to Wuzhou, a city in Guangxi near the crash site, on Monday night to oversee the rescue efforts and investigation, Xinhua reported. Chinese President Xi Jinping has said he was shocked and ordered a search-and-rescue mission.

Relatives of some of the passengers went to Guangzhou’s Baiyun airport while they anxiously awaited news on Monday, according to state media. Ten relatives had rushed to join dozens of medics and experts in Wuzhou as of midnight, and excavators were deployed at the crash site on Tuesday, CCTV reported.

A man surnamed Meng in a village about a half-mile from the crash said he heard what sounded like an explosion and saw the plane plunging straight to the ground within 10 seconds, state-run media outlet the Paper reported. Fire broke out in the area, Mr. Meng said, and thick smoke billowed from the forest after the crash, footage published by the outlet showed.

Details about passengers and the aircrew began to emerge on Tuesday. Dinglong Culture Co., a Shenzhen-listed company based in Guangzhou whose businesses include titanium-ore mining and entertainment, said that its chief financial officer, a woman named Fang Fang, was on the flight.

Zhongxinghua Certified Public Accountants LLP, a Beijing-based accounting firm with offices across the country, said two people working for the firm in its Guangdong branch boarded the plane for work and expressed condolences to the victims’ families and colleagues.

A man named Ni Gongtao in his late 20s had been on that plane, a representative of a neighborhood committee—which are local management units for residents—in Yancheng City, Jiangsu Province, said, citing Mr. Ni’s family. Mr. Ni’s parents were on their way to Guangzhou, the representative from the Yuhua neighborhood said.

Mr. Ni, who works for China Eastern, and his parents are registered as residents of the neighborhood in the central-eastern province, said another representative, surnamed Hu.

China Eastern Airlines didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Authorities have set up a command center to coordinate emergency responses and a media center at a primary school near the crash.

Preliminary findings showed no foreign nationals were on the plane, said Wang Wenbin, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China will lead the investigation into Monday’s crash, and the National Transportation Safety Board has appointed a senior air-safety investigator as a U.S. representative, the NTSB said. Representatives from Boeing, engine maker CFM International and the Federal Aviation Administration will serve as technical advisers. That is typical when a Boeing plane crashes outside the U.S.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing’s current top diplomat said he was saddened by the news of the crash and expressed condolences to those affected. “We are ready to assist in investigation efforts and wish to share our admiration and respect for the emergency responders at the crash site," said David Meale, Chargé d’Affaires of the embassy.

One question for investigators is why the jet plummeted so quickly from the sky, reaching vertical speeds of 31,000 feet a minute, or more than 350 miles an hour. It initially fell to an altitude of 7,425 feet and briefly managed to gain about 1,200 feet in altitude before again diving toward the mountain, data from Flightradar24 shows. The aircraft stopped transmitting at 3,225 feet, less than two minutes after entering the dive.

China Eastern responded to the crash on Monday by grounding the rest of its 737-800 fleet, CCTV reported.

A Boeing spokesman said Monday that it was working with the airline and is in contact with the NTSB, with its experts prepared to assist with the investigation.

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