May 23, 2010 / 2:39 AM / 8 years ago

Crash investigators hunt for India plane black box

MANGALORE, India (Reuters) - Investigators scoured the slopes of a ravine in southern India on Sunday looking for the black box of a Boeing 737-800 that crashed off a hilltop runway, killing 158 people.

Crash site experts sifted through the wreckage and collected some parts, but were still to find the flight data recorder which could provide clues about Saturday’s crash.

The Air India Express flight carrying 166 people, including the crew from Dubai crashed while negotiating a tricky landing at Mangalore city’s “table-top” airport overlooking a ravine.

Eight people survived, mostly by jumping out of the plane that broke into two after crashing.

“It is not possible to give any reason for the crash unless we find the black box,” Peter Abraham, Mangalore airport director, told Reuters.

About a dozen experts were seen examining the jet’s mangled hull. At a distance, workers used bulldozers and metal-cutters to clear debris.

A U.S. forensic team arrived in India to help the investigations, officials said. A Boeing team is also expected.

“It is better to have an independent view and understand what has happened,” said Arvind Jadhav, chief of the state-run Air India. Air India Express is the budget arm of Air India.

Although it was not clear what caused the crash, some Indian TV channels focused on the possibility of human error.

A relative of a victim of a crashed Air India Express passenger plane, mourns after the identification of dead bodies, outside a hospital in Mangalore May 23, 2010. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri

India’s Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said there were no indications of any trouble during the plane’s landing. The weather and visibility was good, he said.

“All other parameters like the aircraft functions and the runway looked to be very normal, so it should have been a normal landing,” he said. “But I do not want to speculate on the cause.”

India has seen a boom in private carriers due to growing demand from India’s middle class. It was the first big crash in more than a decade but a series of near misses at airports, including Delhi and Mumbai, have caused concern India’s creaking infrastructure was failing to keep pace with an economic boom.

Slideshow (19 Images)

CHAOS AT MORGUE

Officials said all 158 bodies had been found.

At Mangalore’s A.J. hospital, two of the survivors were still to come to terms with their “rebirth.”

“I remembered when a plane crashes it bursts into flames, so tried to get as far away as possible,” Sabrina Haq, a 22-year-old medical intern told Reuters from her hospital bed.

“I don’t remember if someone picked me out or I fell out of the plane. I didn’t want to die.” She suffered a broken leg and had bruises on her face.

Some chaos was seen at the hospital’s morgue. Wailing relatives crowded to claim the bodies of their loved ones. But 12 bodies were still to be identified, Jadhav said.

Doctors said they were conducting DNA tests on these bodies.

Police kept away a crowd of reporters trying to speak to the relatives. Dozens of grieving relatives of the victims arrived on a special flight from Dubai.

Writing by Krittivas Mukherjee; Editing by Surojit Gupta

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