Lao authorities have clarified foreign media reports which stated that the black box recorders had been recovered from the Lao Airlines plane that crashed in Champassak province last week.
Director General of the Department of Civil Aviation, Mr Yakua Lopangkao, said on Friday recovery teams from Laos and France had detected a signal from the black box recorders but had not yet been able to locate them.
“We can detect a signal but we cannot pinpoint the location of the black boxes,” he said, adding that the signal was quite strong and indicated the direction of the source of transmission. “But this doesn’t mean we have retrieved the black box recorders,” he added.
Mr Yakua said the joint investigating team from Laos and France is continuing the search for the black box recorders after the ATR72-600 crashed into the Mekong on October 16 near Phaling village in Phonthong district, 7km from Pakse International Airport.
Officials said the batteries in the black boxes would last for about a month, so they must find them within that period of time.
Mr Yakua was unable to say how long the recovery operation would continue, saying the decision would be made by higher authorities. The search has been hampered by strong currents and poor visibility in the river.
The crash was the worst in Lao aviation history. On board were two pilots, two flight attendants, one engineer and 44 passengers, including 16 Lao nationals, seven French citizens, six Australians, five Thais, three South Koreans, three Vietnamese and one person each from the United States, China, Malaysia and Taiwan.
As of 11am on Friday, 44 bodies and 33 other remains had been recovered from the Mekong, of which 42 bodies had been identified, according to the Search and Rescue Committee Secretariat Head, Mr Bualy Phetsongkham.
Of the 42 identified bodies, 27 have been handed over to their families for cremation and the rest are lying at Vat Chin temple where they await collection by relatives.
Mr Bualy said seven of the bodies are yet to be identified. They are thought to be two Lao nationals, three French and two Australians. It is possible that more may be found among the remains yet to be catalogued but nothing further can be confirmed at this stage.
The rest of the remains have been sent to Thailand for identification involving DNA sampling.
Search and rescue committees in every district along the river are continuing to search for the remains of victims even though the accident occurred more than a week ago.
Source: Vientiane Times