January 20, 2017 / 4:38 PM / 3 years ago

'Black box' found after plane crash killed Brazil judge

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian authorities on Friday recovered the black box that was in a small plane that crashed and killed a Supreme Court justice who was overseeing the investigation of a political kickback scheme, the largest ever uncovered in the country.

A Navy ship is seen near the wreckage from a plane, which crashed with Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Teori Zavascki, who was overseeing a graft investigation into scores of powerful politicians, in Paraty, Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil, January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Bruno Kelly

A recovery team pulled the last two bodies from the wreckage of the accident that killed five people when the plane went down in heavy rain on Thursday afternoon just off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state.

The plane was carrying Supreme Court Justice Teori Zavascki, 68, along with his longtime friend who owned the aircraft, Alberto Filgueiras, 69, a boutique hotelier.

Maira Panas, a 23-year-old personal massage therapist for Filgueiras, and her mother Maria Panas, 55, were also aboard, along with the pilot Osmar Rodrigues, 56.

Investigators are under pressure to quickly determine the cause of the crash, which has Brazilians abuzz with conspiracy theories. Zavascki was expected to rule soon on the admissibility of dozens of plea bargains of executives from engineering group Odebrecht.

The testimony is expected to implicate upward of 200 powerful politicians and business leaders in the massive graft probe of state-run oil company Petrobras.

The Air Force, which oversees crash investigations, said it was sending the cockpit voice recorder to the capital Brasilia for analysis. The wreckage of the plane would be sent to a military center in Rio de Janeiro for evaluation.

Percio Freire, a security official in the coastal city of Paraty, near where the Hawker Beechcraft C90GT twin-prop plane went down roughly 3 km (2 miles) from the airport, confirmed all five bodies had been recovered.

The plane took off from Sao Paulo, 200 kilometers (125 miles) to the west.

Eyewitnesses told media it was raining heavily when the plane banked sharply, with the tip of its wing hitting the water before it nose dived into the sea. One person on a boat near the crash told the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper he saw smoke coming from the left wing just before the crash.

Brazil’s civil aviation authority ANAC said the plane’s paper work was in order and it had passed all required inspections.

Federal police and prosecutors said they would also carry out their own investigations to make certain there was no foul play.

Lindsay Adrian, a spokeswoman for Wichita, Kansas-based Textron Inc, which manufactures the Beechcraft, said the company had offered its investigative assistance to Brazilian authorities.

Reporting by Eduardo Simoes and Brad Brooks in Sao Paulo, and Anthony Boadle in Brasilia; Editing by Alan Crosby and Andrew Hay

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