India crash investigators find crashed jet's recorder


Investigators at the site of Saturday's jet crash in southern India have found the cockpit voice recorder, which may help uncover the cause of the disaster.

They are still searching for the flight data recorder, the other key piece of evidence.

The Air India Express Boeing 737 overshot Mangalore airport's hilltop runway and crashed into a valley, bursting into flames and killing 158.

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

Funeral services have been held for many of the victims.

Arvind Jadhav, chairman of Air India, told reporters in Mangalore on Sunday that 158 bodies had been recovered but that 12 remained unidentified, burnt beyond recognition.

DNA tests

The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder, in the Indian capital Delhi, says doctors are trying to use dental records and other means to identify them.

He adds that team of experts have arrived in Mangalore to take samples for DNA testing, a process which could take days.

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.

It is India's first major air disaster in nearly 10 years.

All the passengers on the flight from Dubai were Indian nationals, an Air India official said. Many were thought to have been migrant workers in the Gulf emirate.

One man, Samir Sheikh, lost 16 family members who were travelling to India to attend the funeral of his grandmother, according to the Dubai-based newspaper Khaleej Times.

'No distress call'

The few survivors described hearing a loud thud shortly after touchdown.

Umer Farooq spoke to reporters from his hospital bed where he is being treated for burns to his arms, legs and face.

"The plane veered off toward some trees on the side and then the cabin filled with smoke," he said. "I got caught in some cables but managed to scramble out."

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.

Air India Express is the low-cost arm of the national carrier, Air India.

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

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