India crash investigators recover data recorder

Investigator holds the Air India plane's flight data recorder
Image caption The recorder could provide vital clues to the cause of the crash

Investigators at the site of Saturday's jet crash in southern India have found the plane's flight data recorder.

Television footage showed an investigator holding up the equipment at the crash site. "The flight data recorder is intact," he said.

The evidence it provides may help uncover the cause of the disaster.

The Air India Express Boeing 737 from Dubai overshot Mangalore airport's hilltop runway and crashed into a gorge, killing 158 people.

Eight survivors are being treated in hospital for burns and other injuries.

'Vital' data

On Sunday, investigators recovered the cockpit voice recorder, which records communication between the pilots and with air traffic controllers.

Excavators removed parts of the plane buried under the earth at the crash site to recover the flight data recorder - or "black box" - after three days of searching.

The equipment contains critical technical information, including the speed of the aircraft, its height and details such as any engine or other possible malfunction.

Both recorders will now be taken to Delhi and examined by investigators to piece together the sequence of events leading to the crash.

India's Civil Aviation Ministry said the recorder contained "the most vital source of information" about Saturday's crash.

"Though apparently impacted by the crash, it will be subjected to further tests for decoding and made available to the investigators," the ministry said in a statement.

Funeral services have been held for many of the victims of Saturday's crash.

DNA samples from 21 bodies are to be sent for testing after they remained unidentified or had multiple claimants, reports say.

Runway questions

Two teams of US investigators, one from the National Transportation Safety Board and the other from aircraft manufacturer Boeing, have been dispatched to help with the crash investigation.

Mangalore's airport lies on top of a hill with steep drops at the end of each of its two runways. One of the runways was extended in 2006 to accommodate larger planes like the Boeing 737.

Indian aviation officials said the landing conditions at the time of the crash were fair with good visibility, and that there had been no distress call from the plane's cockpit.

India's air safety record has been good in the past decade, despite a rapid increase in the number of private airlines and air travel in the country.

The country's last major crash happened in the city of Patna in July 2000, killing at least 50 people.

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