Salvage crews hunt for Ethiopian airliner black boxes

January 30, 2010

The cabinet had “asked that the Odyssey Explorer… be sent to intervene as soon as the block boxes are located,” Information Minister Tarek Mitri told AFP.

Searchers on Wednesday picked up the signals of the black boxes from the Ethiopian Airlines jet, and have been trying to pinpoint their exact location ever since.

Mitri had said the flight data and cockpit voice recorders, which are known as the black boxes and emit an electronic signal to facilitate recovery, were thought to be about 14 kilometres (nine miles) off the coast south of the airport at a depth of 1,500 metres (4,920 feet).

But an army spokesman said the exact location of the black boxes was yet to be pinpointed.

“The search still hasn’t uncovered anything,” the spokesman told AFP. “The decision is to continue searching,” he said, adding rescuers were “following the signals emitted by the black boxes.”

Lebanese Transport Minister Ghazi Aridi said Friday that two-thirds of the area where the black boxes are thought to be lying had been searched.

The Ocean Alert, another vessel operated by the same US company that owns the Odyssey Explorer and specialises in undersea recovery, has been sweeping the area in which the signals were detected.

Once the boxes were retrieved, they would be sent to a decoding centre overseas, possibly in France, sources close to the investigation have told AFP.

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409 was bound for Addis Ababa when it went down early on Monday morning.

All 83 passengers and seven crew are presumed dead. Most of those on board were Ethiopians and Lebanese.

Only 14 bodies, including those of two toddlers, and body parts have been found so far.

Rescue officials have said a number of the victims’ remains may still be strapped to their seats underwater.

There were conflicting reports as to whether the jet exploded while airborne or after it had hit the water, and officials have said there will be no answers until the data from the black boxes is retrieved and analysed.

Officials want to know why the plane veered off course after takeoff, but have ruled out sabotage.


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