Chinese people mourn crash victims, hope two black boxes provide more clues to cause of tragedy
Published: Mar 27, 2022 10:13 PM
In a screenshot from a video, staff from national emergency response headquarters and rescue workers mourn the 132 victims of flight MU5735, at the site of the crash in Tengxian county, South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on March 27, 2022.Photo:IC

In a screenshot from a video, staff from national emergency response headquarters and rescue workers mourn the 132 victims of flight MU5735, at the site of the crash in Tengxian county, South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on March 27, 2022.Photo:IC

Heartbroken people across China mourned on Sunday the victims of China Eastern Airlines' crashed Boeing 737-800 on the seventh day after the disaster, as netizens expressed heartfelt condolences in comment sections which were filled with emojis and stickers of candles and tears. According to Chinese tradition, the seventh day after a death is the height of the mourning period.

Also on Sunday, officials said they have found the second black box, the flight data recorder, of the crashed plane. Data from both black boxes is being decoded and are expected to provide more clues to explain what caused the tragic crash. The news is believed to provide some relief and comfort for grieving relatives and friends. 

On Sunday afternoon, a collective mourning event for victims of the crash was held at the search site where the accident occurred in Tengxian county, South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. 

All the staff of national emergency response headquarters for the accident, and the search and rescue personnel stood solemnly in the direction of the crashed aircraft and observed three minutes of silence to express condolences to the victims.

All 132 people on board are dead, China's aviation authorities confirmed Saturday night. More than 466,000 comments followed a People's Daily Weibo post on Saturday night which said "Rest in peace, victims of crashed China Eastern Airlines Flight MU5735." One of the most supported posts read "Although I knew the result, the final confirmation is still heart shattering."

"The whole country was expecting miracles… Hope everyone on MU5735 has gone to the world of fairy tales. Rest in peace," wrote another Weibo user. "They were lost in the sky. They will be carried by the clouds back home!" read another comment with 13,000 likes.  

China Eastern, the operator of the Boeing 737-800 flight MU5735, said it deeply mourns the victims of the crash in a social media post on Saturday night after the official confirmation of the tragedy. 

Chinese officials said 632 family members of the victims of MU5735 have been to the crash site in groups to offer condolences and psychological counseling has been administered more than 1,200 times to family members, according to the press conference on Sunday.  

Yin Ping, head of the psychological rescue expert group for the incident, suggested that the families of the victims should not be disturbed excessively, which might cause secondary harm.   

He noted the victims' families will have obvious expressions of sadness as seven days after the crash they have begun to face and accept the fact that their loved ones had perished, adding that what they need is understanding, company and a natural venting of emotions.

Investigations into air crashes take a long time. The most important thing right now is to appease the grief and overcome the psychological difficulties with families and civil aviation employees, Qin Ling, a deputy-director of Shanghai Morning Post told the Global Times on Sunday. He is also a veteran of the civil aviation industry. 

China's civil aviation industry had achieved more than 100 million hours of safe flight before the crash on March 21, which is not by luck, but the result of the hard work of many civil aviation personnel. This cannot be completely overridden by an air crash, he added.  

Second black box found 

Two days after the crash, the rescue team successfully recovered the first black box, the cockpit voice recorder. It triggered high expectations and anxiety about the search for the second one, given the continuous rainfall and landslide risk in the area surrounding the crash site.

The second black box, the flight data recorder, was found on Sunday morning under a 1.5-meter layer of soil at the crash site, China Central Television (CCTV) reported.

The two black boxes have both been sent to Beijing to extract and decode the data. 

The exterior of data storage unit of the second black box remains intact, but other parts of the flight data recorder are seriously damaged after examination, said Zhu Tao, director of aviation safety office of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).

The flight data recorder can provide real and objective evidence for the analysis of the cause of the accident, said Mao Yanfeng, director of the CAAC's accident investigation unit at a press conference on Sunday. 

The second black box records the status parameters of the aircraft during flight, such as altitude, speed, pitch angle, roll angle, heading and vertical speed, as well as parameters such as steering wheel and autopilot.

In the next stage, investigators need to combine the data of the two recorders, as well as the evidence of the on-site investigation, air traffic control radar data, the communication between crew and the air traffic control unit, data link transmission information between the aircraft and the ground, and witness interviews to conduct comprehensive analysis, then can make conclusion of the accident cause more objective and accurate, Mao added.

Boeing on Saturday said that it will continue to support the airline customer during this difficult time, and a Boeing technical team is supporting the US National Transportation Safety Board and the CAAC who will lead the investigation.

China Eastern Airlines has officially started the compensation claims process,  establishing uniform compensation standards, with victims' families involved in communication scheme for specific details.

The company has set up a full-time team to take charge of the claims settlement. It has set up and opened a special claims line for family members of the victims, said Liu Xiaodong, spokesperson of China Eastern Airlines, on Sunday during the press conference.