Relatives cast flowers into sea for air crash victims

People's Daily, China
May 6 2006

Armenia and Russia marked an official day of mourning on Friday,
grieving relatives cast flowers into the Black Sea at the spot where
an Armenian jet plunged into the waters, killing all 113 on board.

To the sound of mournful music and the boom of a fog horn, they
scattered carnations and roses over the waters six kilometres offshore
from the Russian resort of Sochi, where the Armenian Airbus A320
crashed on Wednesday.

A woman holding a photograph of two young newly-weds who died in the
crash fainted on the deck of the boat that took them to the site.

Several others also passed out.

Transport Minister Igor Levitin, who was in Sochi, said it was urgent
to find the corpses of the many victims still lost in the sea more than
half of the people on the plane. Only 50 bodies have been recovered
so far, according to the emergency situations ministry.

"It's very important for us to raise the bodies. That's our priority
now," Levitin said.

A first plane carrying 26 bodies arrived at the airport in the Armenian
capital, Yerevan, on Friday after an initial delay, apparently due
to a lack of coffins.

"The victims' bodies are unrecognisable, horribly disfigured. A mother
wouldn't know her own son," said one young man who had returned from
Sochi after failing to find his brother-in-law, his eyes red from
crying and fatigue.

Flags flew at half mast across Armenia, radio and television channels
played sad music and memorial services were held at churches across
the country.

Russian officials and members of the public also laid flowers at the
Armenian embassy in Moscow for the victims of the accident. The crash
has shocked the two countries, which have long had close ties.

Work continues

Meanwhile work continued to recover from the sea the victims' corpses
and the black box flight recorders that might help establish why the
plane crashed. Bad weather is thought to be the cause of the crash,
according to investigators.

The latter said they had picked up signals from what seemed to be
the flight recorders at a location 680 metres below the surface,
where a large section of the plane's wrecked fuselage lay.

Russia, whose investigators are being helped by experts from France,
is seeking assistance from other foreign countries to raise the black
boxes since its Black Sea fleet is not fully equiped for the task,
Levitin said.

A bathyscaphe submersible vehicle will be sent down to the site to
ascertain whether the signals that have been picked up are really
coming from a section of the plane, he added.

Relatives face the grim task of identifying their dead loved ones
from photographs pinned on a hotel wall in Sochi, many of the bodies
battered and bloated from submersion in the water.

On board the plane were 85 Armenian citizens, 26 Russians, one
Georgian and one Ukrainian, according to a list published at Yerevan
airport. Six children were thought to be among the dead.