BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Aug 15 (Reuters) - Investigators combed through the wreckage of a UPS cargo plane for the second straight day on Thursday, hoping to find clues to the crash that killed two pilots outside Birmingham, Alabama’s international airport early Wednesday.
The investigation into the crash is being led by the National Transportation Safety Board, which said on Wednesday that the smoldering remains of the plane’s tail section were too hot to allow for retrieval of its cockpit voice and flight data recorders.
Eric Weiss, an NTSB spokesman, said retrieval of the recorders from the United Parcel Service Inc aircraft was “a top priority” for Thursday.
A media briefing by the NTSB has been scheduled for 4 p.m. CDT (2100 GMT), Weiss added.
The cargo plane, an Airbus A300, clipped trees and nearly hit a house before plowing across about 200 yards (183 meters) of empty field well short of the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, a senior NTSB official said on Wednesday.
The official, Robert Sumwalt, said the pilots of the aircraft issued no emergency or distress calls before the plane crashed and burst into flames.
UPS flight 1354, which took off from Louisville, Kentucky, was on approach to the Birmingham airport when it crashed at about 5 a.m. CDT (1000 GMT), according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
One of the doomed crew members has been identified as 37-year-old Shanda Fanning of Lynchburg, Tennessee, according to her local sheriff’s office.
The other pilot had been identified as Cerea Beal Jr., a resident of the Charlotte, North Carolina, area, the Charlotte Observer newspaper said.
Bill Yates, a deputy coroner in the Jefferson County, Alabama, Medical Examiner’s Office, said the bodies of the pilots had been recovered from the crash site early on Wednesday afternoon.
He said no official information had been released about the pilots’ identification or cause of death.
UPS, the world’s largest package-delivery service, has not yet disclosed details about the aircraft’s cargo. But witnesses have said a large and intense fire erupted either shortly before or after the plane crashed and that there were two or three explosions after it caught fire.
The Airbus A300 is a wide-body jet widely used as a regional freighter by UPS, FedEx Corp and others.