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Russia finds black box from Christmas Day plane crash

Local media reports say that a minister confirmed the discovery this morning.

THE MAIN BLACK box from a Russian military plane that crashed on Christmas Day has been found, Russia’s defence ministry told local news agencies this morning.

“The main black box was found at 5.42am Moscow time (or 2.42am Irish time) 1,600 metres from the shore at a depth of 17 metres,” agencies quoted the ministry as saying.

The agencies reported that the black box would be flown to the Moscow region to be deciphered by experts.

Meanwhile, investigators said they have sorted and documented thousands of passengers’ personal items and identification documents, questioned locals and are checking the fuel equipment at the airport.

Investigators were also looking at a witness video of the abortive flight and the plane’s plunge into the sea.

One witness “filmed the takeoff, flight and fall of the plane into the sea,” the Investigative Committee said in a statement.

The ministry also said that 12 bodies and 156 body fragments had been recovered from the water since the crash.

Authorities have said that the human bodies and remains found would be sent to Moscow for identification.

The Tu-154 jet, whose passengers included more than 60 members of the internationally-renowned Red Army Choir, was heading to Russia’s military base in Syria when it went down off the coast of the resort city of Sochi minutes after take-off on Sunday.

Officials have said that an act of terror was not being considered as a possible explanation, despite the political tensions following the killing of Syria’s ambassador to Russia earlier this month.

Russia’s federal security service said yesterday it was focusing on pilot error, a technical fault, bad fuel and a foreign object in the engine as the four main scenarios that could explain the crash.

The Kommersant daily newspaper reported that investigators are relying on a witness statement by a coastguard member who saw the plane in its final moments descending towards the sea with its nose tilted sharply upward.

Authorities have not said how long it would take to decipher the black box.

Choir to be restored

Russia Military Plane Source: Viktor Klyushin

The Tu-154 jet went down on Sunday morning minutes after taking off at 5.25am (2.25am GMT) from Sochi’s airport, where it had stopped to refuel after flying out from the Chkalovsky military aerodrome in the Moscow region.

The FSB said one customs officer and one border guard came on board as it was being fuelled while the captain and one other crew member came out.

Onboard were 64 members of the Alexandrov Ensemble — the army’s official musical group, also known as the Red Army Choir — and their conductor Valery Khalilov.

The choir was set to perform for Russian troops at the Hmeimim airbase in Syria, which has been used to launch air strikes in support of Moscow’s ally President Bashar al-Assad.

Defence minister Sergei Shoigu has pledged to restore the choir “in the nearest future.”

Other passengers included military officers, journalists and popular charity worker Yelizaveta Glinka, affectionately known as “Doctor Liza”, who was bringing medical supplies to a hospital in the coastal Syrian city of Latakia.

Russia observed a day of mourning on Monday and Sochi’s administration announced that it is cancelling the New Year’s Eve celebration on its main square due to the tragedy.

People have been bringing flowers to improvised memorials at the port in central Sochi and the city’s airport, as well as to the Moscow headquarters of the Red Army Choir and the office of Fair Aid, the NGO that Glinka headed, which primarily worked with Moscow’s homeless.

Tu-154 aircraft have been involved in a number of accidents in the past, including the April 2010 crash killing then-Polish president Lech Kaczynski and his delegation. They are no longer used by commercial airlines in Russia.

Asked whether all Tu-154 planes would be grounded, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov referred journalists to the transportation ministry, while Transport Minister Maksim Sokolov called the model “rather reliable”.

With reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha

© AFP 2016

Read: Parts of crashed Russian plane found in Black Sea

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