Hunt for clues after India crash kills 158; 8 live

Recovery of black boxes crucial for determining what went wrong with flight.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
May 23, 2010 15:07
2 minute read.
An earth remover cleans the site of the Air India

India plane crash 311. (photo credit: AP)

 
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MANGALORE, India (AP) — Grieving relatives collected the victims' remains from a crashed Indian plane and investigators sifted through the rubble Sunday for the cockpit voice and the flight data recorder after India's worst air disaster in more than a decade killed 158 people.

Eight people survived Saturday's crash of an Air India Boeing 737-800 that overshot a hilltop runway southern India and plunged over a cliff, officials said. At least some of the survivors managed to jump from the wreckage just before it burst into flames.

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Recovery of the black boxes is crucial for determining what went wrong with the aircraft as it came for landing after a flight from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Investigators used cutters to search for the black boxes in the twisted wreckage of the aircraft, which was scattered along the hillside of thick grass and trees just outside Mangalore's Bajpe airport.

A four-member US forensic team also arrived in India to help in the investigation, said Harpreet Singh, an Air India spokeswoman. She refused to speculate on the cause of the crash.

Dozens of crestfallen relatives arrived Sunday on a special Air India flight from Dubai and the southern Indian states of Karnataka and Kerala to take back home the bodies of their loved ones.

Singh said that 87 of the 158 bodies have been identified and handed over to the relatives for funeral.



The plane was carrying 160 passengers — all Indian — and six crew members, Air India official Anup Srivastava said. Four infants and 19 other children were among the passengers. The British pilot, who was of Serbian origin, and an Indian co-pilot were among the dead, officials said.

The crash was the deadliest in India since the November 1996 midair collision between a Saudi airliner and a Kazakh cargo plane near New Delhi that killed 349 people.

Indian PM expresses condolences, promises compensation

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed condolences and promised compensation for the families of the victims. Boeing said it was sending a team to aid in the investigation.

The crash happened about 6 a.m. when the plane tried to land at Bajpe, about 19 miles (30 kilometers) outside of Mangalore, and overshot the runway, said Srivastava, the official with the financially struggling Indian national carrier.

The Mangalore airport's location, on a plateau surrounded by hills, made it difficult for the firefighters to reach the crash site, officials said. Aviation experts said Bajpe's "tabletop" runway, which ends in a valley, makes a bad crash inevitable when a plane does not stop in time.

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