After a day of rigorous searching, Chinese investigators are still unable to find any survivors from the aftermath of a China Eastern Airlines plane that nosedived into a mountain. The Boeing 737-800 was carrying 132 people on board.
What Do We Know So Far?
On Wednesday, state media reported they found one of two black boxes, although it was “heavily damaged.” It’s also not clear at this point whether the recovered box could help with the investigation because we still don’t know if it was the box that recorded flight data or cockpit communication with air traffic controllers.
Investigators on Tuesday said they lost communications with the flight’s crew around 2:21 p.m. as the plant flew over Wuzhou city of Guangxi province. The plane reportedly experienced a sudden altitude change moments before losing communications, plummeting 20,000 feet of altitude in little more than a minute. The flight was intended to arrive in the city of Guangzhou less than an hour later.
“With the information we currently have, we have no way of coming to a clear view of the reasons [for the crash],” a spokesperson for China’s main airline regulator said according to the Journal.
Rescuers reportedly found wallets and shredded fragments of phones scattered amongst the debris on Tuesday. School textbooks and identification were also found mixed in with the wreckage. If investigators are unable to find survivors moving forward, (which sadly appears likely) Monday’s crash will mark the deadliest commercial plane crash in China since a 2010 Henan Airlines crash in Yichun that left 44 dead.
Boeing released a statement late Monday saying it was working to support China Eastern Airlines and was in contact with U.S. officials. “Our thoughts are with the passengers and crew,” Boeing said. “Boeing is in contact with the U.S. The National Transportation Safety Board and our technical experts are prepared to assist with the investigation led by the Civil Aviation Administration of China.”
Investigators told reporters the plane was in good working order prior to its departure, and that nine crew members on board were in good health and met minimum experience requirements. The 737-800, which the New York Times notes accounts for somewhere around 17% of passenger planes in service worldwide, was notably not the same as Boeing’s 737 Max model implicated in crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that left 346 people dead.