Chinese authorities officially confirmed on Saturday that there were no survivors in the crash of a China Eastern 737-800 earlier this week. There were 132 people on board.
The announcement by a Civil Aviation Administration of China official at a late evening press conference was followed by a brief moment of silence. Investigators identified 120 of the victims through DNA analysis, state media reported.
The flight from the city of Kunming in southwest China was flying at 8,800 meters on Monday when it suddenly plunged into a mountainous area, shortly before it began its descent towards Guangzhou Airport, the provincial capital and export manufacturing hub near Hong Kong. on the southeast coast of China.
Search still in progress for the 2nd black box
Construction excavators dug up the crash site on Saturday looking for wreckage, remains and the second black box. Searchers found the cockpit voice recorder on Wednesday, but have yet to find the flight data recorder.
Workers wearing knee-high rubber boots used shovels and other hand tools to sift through dirt slopes into a pit 20 meters deep left by the plane. Debris and other items were collected in dozens of mud-stained rectangular plastic containers.
Pumps were used to drain the water as muddy conditions hampered the search.
An excavator stopped working after partially jamming, state broadcaster CCTV said.
The cause of the accident remained a mystery. An air traffic controller tried to contact the pilots several times after seeing the plane’s altitude drop sharply, but got no response, officials said.
Authorities said forensic and criminal experts had confirmed the identities of 114 passengers and six crew members.
China Eastern, one of China’s four major airlines, and its subsidiaries have grounded all of their 737-800s, a total of 223 planes. The carrier said the grounding was a precaution, not a sign that there was anything wrong.