Thu, May 30, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Searchers pinpoint `black boxes'

BREAKTHROUGH Searchers announced yesterday that they have located the position of the two `black boxes' and a large piece of wreckage that could lead to more bodies

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AGENCIES

Chan Ju-tsung, a resident of Taipei City's Peitou district who lost six of his family members in the CI611 crash, including his parents, prepares an altar for a religious ceremony for the dead yesterday.

PHOTO: CHANG CHIA-MING, TAIPEI TIMES

Searchers yesterday pinpointed the position of the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder -- the so-called "black boxes" -- of the China Airlines plane that plunged into the sea with 225 people on board, kindling hopes of determining the cause of deadly crash.

"Through an underwater search and various verification ... we have now ascertained the location of the black boxes at a longitude of 119'40, north latitude 23'58" in waters off Penghu island, said Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Lin-shan (林陵三).

"Near the site, we have also found a huge piece of wreckage, measuring 40m by 10m by 6m," Lin said in a press conference yesterday evening in Penghu.

Searchers would begin related underwater retrieval in a timely manner, Lin said, although he declined to say when they could complete the recovery of the critical parts of the plane.

The progress hinges on weather conditions at sea as well as on the retrieval ability of the searchers involved, said Managing Director of the Aviation Safety Council (ASC) Yong Kay (戎凱).

Scuba divers went down to begin a search of the large piece of wreckage last night.

It began to drizzle in Penghu late yesterday afternoon and the Central Weather Bureau reported that a new weather system was moving into the area, triggering fears that strong winds would create choppy seas, hampering the search.

The first body recovered on Sunday was near the site where searchers yesterday detected the signals of the black boxes, the retrieval of which is vital in establishing the probable cause of the crash, Lin said.

Yong said the investigation team led by the ASC planned to ask the US and China for satellite images that might help locate the crashed Boeing 747-200 in the Taiwan Strait.

The satellite data from the two countries could give officials a "better estimate of the way the debris fell," Yong said.

Taiwan also planned to ask the two countries to share related radar data, Yong added.

Experts from the Massachusetts-based American Underwater Search and Survey Ltd (AUSS) are scheduled to reach Taiwan today to join the search and retrieval effort.

The AUSS team was involved in the underwater retrieval of a TWA Boeing 747-100 that crashed off the coast of New York in 1996, among other projects.

Lin also briefed relatives of the victims on the latest developments at an air force base in Penghu late yesterday afternoon.

Some relatives urged the searchers to recover the huge bulk of the detected wreckage as soon possible, as they believe the remains of their loved ones are trapped underneath.

Searchers on Sunday detected weak but regular signals believed to be sent out by the two black boxes, but a subsequent search near the site where the signals were detected was to no avail.

So far, only a small fraction of the crashed plane has been retrieved, with the major pieces still buried underwater in the Taiwan Strait. With so little of the plane recovered, investigators have few clues as to why the plane split into four pieces at an altitude of more than 9,144m.

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