Hunt for clues after India crash kills 158; 8 live

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

India plane crash 311 (photo credit: AP)
India plane crash 311
(photo credit: AP)
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.
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 twistedwreckage of the aircraft, which was scattered along the hillside ofthick grass and trees just outside Mangalore's Bajpe airport.
A four-member US forensic team also arrived in India to help in theinvestigation, said Harpreet Singh, an Air India spokeswoman. Sherefused to speculate on the cause of the crash.
Dozens of crestfallen relatives arrived Sunday on a special Air Indiaflight from Dubai and the southern Indian states of Karnataka andKerala 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 crewmembers, Air India official Anup Srivastava said. Four infants and 19other children were among the passengers. The British pilot, who was ofSerbian origin, and an Indian co-pilot were among the dead, officialssaid.
The crash was the deadliest in India since the November 1996 midaircollision between a Saudi airliner and a Kazakh cargo plane near NewDelhi that killed 349 people.
Indian PM expresses condolences, promises compensation
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed condolences and promisedcompensation for the families of the victims. Boeing said it wassending 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 therunway, said Srivastava, the official with the financially strugglingIndian 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, whichends in a valley, makes a bad crash inevitable when a plane does notstop in time.