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Updated: January 27, 2010 14:54 IST

Boats scour ocean for Beirut crash black boxes

AP
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Red Cross workers carry the remains of people who died in Monday's Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 crash, into Rafik Hariri Hospital in Beirut on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010. The pilot of an Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed into the sea shortly after takeoff from Beirut performed
Red Cross workers carry the remains of people who died in Monday's Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 crash, into Rafik Hariri Hospital in Beirut on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010. The pilot of an Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed into the sea shortly after takeoff from Beirut performed "a very fast and strange turn before disappearing from the radar," Lebanon's transportation minister said Tuesday. All 90 people on board were feared dead after the plane went down in flames around at 2:30 a.m. Monday, during a night of lightning and thunderstorms. Photo: AP.

Emergency workers will expand their search radius for the wreckage of an Ethiopian Airlines jet if they do not find the black boxes on Wednesday, an army official said.

Searchers have fanned out for 18 miles (30 kilometers) along Beirut’s coast, and about 5 miles (8 kilometers) out to sea, said the official, who asked that his name not be used because he is not authorized to speak publicly.

The plane went down in flames early Monday just minutes after takeoff in a thunderstorm. All 90 people on board were feared dead.

The black box and flight data recorder are critical to determining the cause of the crash.

The army official said emergency crews were bringing the pieces of the plane they have found to a military base.

On Tuesday, Lebanon’s transportation minister said the pilot made a “fast and strange turn” minutes after takeoff. But the minister cautioned against making any conclusions about the cause of the crash, saying it was far too early and investigators still need to find the black boxes.

Rescue teams using sonar-equipped boats and divers have recovered some bodies and pieces of the plane, but hope for finding any survivors has faded.

Transportation Minister Ghazi Aridi revealed that the plane flew in the opposite direction from the path recommended by the control tower after taking off in stormy weather.

He said the pilot initially followed the tower’s guidance, but then abruptly changed course and went in the opposite direction.

“They asked him to correct his path but he did a very fast and strange turn before disappearing completely from the radar,” Mr. Aridi told The Associated Press.

“Nobody is saying the pilot is to blame for not heeding orders,” Mr. Aridi said, adding: “There could have been many reasons for what happened. ... Only the black box can tell.”

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