Search operation continues at Airbus-320 crash scene in Sochi

May 6 2006

06.05.2006, 02.04

MOSCOW, May 6 (Itar-Tass) -- The search operation is continuing on
the Black Sea where an Armenian Airbus-320 passenger plane crashed
on May 3.

Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu arrived at the scene on Friday

So far 42 bodies of victims have been identified, an official at the
Russian Prosecutor General's Office said.

"Forensic tests on the victims' bodies are nearing completion,"
the prosecutor said, adding that samples had been obtained for DNA
analysis of body fragments.

Russian Transport Minister Igor Levitin said 53 bodies had been
recovered. The remains of 26 passengers were flown to Yerevan earlier
on Friday.

Investigators from the Prosecutor-General's Office have questioned
air traffic controllers as witnesses in the case.

Sources at the Prosecutor-General's Office said "the investigators
keep studying a large amount of retrieved documents, including
technical ones."

"The available fragments of the plane are being examined in cooperation
with specialists. All information collected so far is being checked on,
verified and summarised. The crew's verbal exchanges with the ground
services are being studied and witnesses questioned, including the
personnel of air traffic control services," the sources said.

Earlier, Georgia handed over to Armenia important materials that
may help to investigate the A-320 airliner crash, an official at the
Armenian Embassy in Georgia told Itar-Tass.

Members of the investigating group were in Tbilisi for two days and
left Georgia on Friday.

On Thursday, the Georgian air traffic control service provided
investigators and reporters with the recording of the conversation
with the plane crew when the aircraft was in the area controlled by
Georgia and expressed readiness to cooperate with Russian and Armenian
specialists in the investigation.

The search operation involves 23 ships, two Ka-32 and Mi-8 helicopters,
the research ship "Katran", which has an automatic bathyscaphe,
an underwater "Kalmar" device with a multi-ray sonar, and a Be-200
amphibious plane.

The recovery of the Airbus A-320 flight recorders is crucial for
finding out the cause of the crash. French specialists detected the
flight recorders emitting radio signals at a depth of 680 meters.

The Airbus A-320 of the Armenian airline Armavia plunged into the
Black Sea as it was making a landing manoeuvre in the early hours of
May 3. The accident claimed the lives of 113 people.

Religious services for the crash victims were held in Russian and
Armenian churches on Friday.