More China Eastern Boeing 737 wreckage and remains of victims found, possibility of damage to the stored data of first black box not ruled out
Published: Mar 24, 2022 10:33 PM
Rescuers conduct search and rescue work at a plane crash site in Tengxian County, South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, on March 24, 2022. Photo: Xinhua

Rescuers conduct search and rescue work at a plane crash site in Tengxian County, South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, on March 24, 2022. Photo: Xinhua

More aircraft wreckage and human remains of the victims were found on Thursday at the crash site in the forested mountain in South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, the fourth day after the plane with 132 people on board crashed on Monday afternoon.  

Chinese officials also said the possibility of damage to the storage unit of the black box they have already found -- a cockpit voice recorder -- cannot be ruled out. The officials said they are going all-out in search of the second black box.

As of 15:30 on Thursday, a total of 21 pieces of belongings of the victims, 183 pieces of plane wreckage and some human remains have been found, according to the press conference near the crash site in Wuzhou of Guangxi on Thursday.

It is the fourth press release since the crash happened on Monday.

The main debris that has been found include an engine blade and turbine fragments, engine pylon fragments, left and right horizontal tail fragments, aileron autopilot actuators and wing fragments with partial wing-tip winglets. 

Crew escape ropes and fragments of crew manuals and some cockpit crew documents were also found, the press conference said. 

Search and rescue personnel at a farmland in Tengxian county, Wuzhou in Guangxi, found a suspected piece of debris with a length of about 1.3 meters and a maximum width of about 10 centimeters, which was about more than 10 kilometers from the accident core site.

Officials at the press conference said that the main impact point of the accident has been largely determined. Most of the wreckage of the crashed plane is concentrated in the core area with a radius of about 30 meters around the main impact point, and the depth extends from the surface to about 20 meters.

The search area on Thursday would be 1.5 times larger than that of the previous day.

But the continuous rainfall has increased difficulties for the search work as it caused water accumulation in the core area of the accident. Local fire brigade officials also warned of the risk of small-scale landslides, adding that the it is even more difficult to access the area after the rain, and large fire rescue vehicles and equipment cannot be used.

As of 8 am on Thursday, there were a total of 305 family members of 56 passengers staying in Wuzhou, involving 52 families, according to the press conference.

Liu Xiaodong, spokesperson from China Eastern Airlines, said more than 200 family members of the victims have been to the crash site.
Searching the second black box

Honeywell, the producer of the black boxes of the crashed plane, told the Global Times on Thursday that it's aware that one of the flight recorders has been retrieved from China Eastern Airlines flight 5735. Investigations into the incident are being led by appropriate regulatory authorities and it stands ready to support if asked, the company said.

According to the press conference, one of the black boxes that was found on Wednesday was immediately delivered to a decoding lab in Beijing. The analysis of its data is already underway. 

"The possibility of damage to the stored data cannot be ruled out," said Zhu Tao, director of aviation safety office of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).

According to the configuration of the Boeing B737-800 aircraft, both recorders are installed in the rear of the aircraft. The cockpit voice recorder is located in the rear cargo compartment and the flight data recorder is located above the ceiling in the rear of the cabin.

"The discovery of the cockpit voice recorder raised the possibility that another flight data recorder could be found," Zhu said. 

"The data of the flight data recorder is more important than the cockpit voice recorder, for it has more first-hand information, including the altitude of the aircraft, the control actions of the crew and the parameters of the key systems on the aircraft. These intuitive data can help investigators to reproduce the scenario," Wang Yanan, chief editor of Beijing-based Aerospace Knowledge magazine, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

''The release of an aviation accident investigation report is a rigorous and meticulous work. It requires multi-faceted and all-factor consideration, which also include several simulation experiments. In order to ensure the rigor and authority of the final report, an investigation process of six months to one year is normal,'' Wang added.  

After the incident, China's civil aviation regulator relayed the accident information to International Civil Aviation Organization and the investigation agency of the country where the crashed aircraft was designed and manufactured, the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), according to the relevant requirements of the International Civil Aviation Convention.

When asked whether China would invite the NTSB to assist in the investigation, Zhu from CAAC said the focus now is on search and rescue, while collecting evidence for the upcoming accident probe. ''When entering the probe stage, we will invite relevant parties to participate in the probe in accordance with regulations," Zhu added. 

China is fully engaged in the search and rescue work and will carry out the accident investigation in accordance with laws and regulations while maintaining communication with relevant parties, Wang Wenbin, spokesperson of Foreign Ministry, said on Thursday. 

Reuters reported that Chinese authorities had invited the NTSB to take part in the investigation of the crash, citing US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.