Wed, May 09, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Rescuers recover human remains at Cameroon crash site

AFP , MBANGA-PONGO, CAMEROON, AND NAIROBI

A soldier searches for passengers' belongings on Monday at the site where a Kenya Airlines passenger jet crashed on Saturday near the village of Mbanga Pongo, Cameroon.

PHOTO: AFP

Rescuers mounted a grisly operation in southern Cameroon on Monday to recover the remains of 114 people from a crash site where a Kenyan Airways jet came down in a violent storm on Saturday.

Luc Ndjodo, a prosecutor for the city of Douala, said that the first bodies had been picked up from the mangrove swamp where the Boeing 737-800 crashed.

As the crash occurred in a dense jungle in the area 20km southwest of Douala, it took rescuers 36 hours to find the mangled wreckage of the six-month-old aircraft.

The plane was carrying a crew of nine from Kenya and 105 passengers from 26 other countries. There were no survivors.

Late on Monday, Cameroonian civil aviation officials announced that they had found one of the two black boxes from the plane at the crash site.

"We found the flight data recorder. We still need to recover the cockpit voice recorder," civil aviation director general Ignatius Sana Juma said.

The black boxes store a variety of information such as a plane's speed, altitude and voice communications in the cockpit.

They are also equipped with beacons to aid rescuers in locating them and are vital in ascertaining the cause of a crash.

Police official Emmanuel Meka said the body-recovery operation had stopped on Monday night but would continue yesterday.

The plane's jets were ripped from the wings, a reporter at the site said.

Rescuers made their way through the mud and gnarled pieces of metal, collecting remnants of clothes and bodies that were then transported to the town of Mbanga-Pongo, an hour's walk away, for identification.

Parts of bodies were strewn about the site, the reporter said.

Officials from Boeing and the US National Transportation Safety Board were scheduled to arrive at the accident site yesterday to help in the investigation.

Cameroonian aviation officials said the flight, KQ 507, disappeared from radar screens on Saturday shortly after taking off in bad weather.

A Kenyan aviation official on Monday said the plane could have been struck by lightning.

The rescue work was being conducted under tight security with police guarding the site and helicopters hovering overhead.

Villagers armed with machetes helped cut an emergency path to the wreckage as Cameroonian troops cordoned off the area.

Kenyan officials praised Cameroon's handling of the crash.

"It was very well planned in terms of search and rescue and I do not believe the flight could have been found any earlier," Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua said.

An additional Kenya Airways support team of 14, including counselors and French speakers, headed for Cameroon on Monday.

Kenya Airways CEO Titus Naikuni said he would leave for Douala early yesterday.

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