At China Eastern Crash Site, Only Remnants of Lives Lost

No survivors found at remote crash site that left a pit in a mountainside
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 22, 2022 6:38 AM CDT
At China Eastern Crash Site, Only Remnants of Lives Lost
People arrive to a cordoned off area for relatives of the victims aboard China Eastern's flight MU5735, in the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, Tuesday, March 22, 2022. No survivors have been found as rescuers on Tuesday searched the scattered wreckage of a China Eastern plane carrying 132.   (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

(Newser) – Mud-stained wallets. Bank cards. Official identity cards. Some of the personal effects of 132 lives presumed lost were lined up by rescue workers scouring a remote mountainside Tuesday for the wreckage of a China Eastern plane that one day earlier inexplicably fell from the sky and burst into a fireball seen on NASA satellite images. No survivors have been found among the 123 passengers and nine crew members. Video posted by China's state media show small pieces of the plane scattered over a wide forested area, some in fields, others in burnt-out patches with raw earth exposed, reports the AP. Chen Weihao, who saw the falling plane while working on a farm, said it hit a gap in the mountain where nobody lived. “The plane looked to be in one piece when it nosedived. Within seconds, it crashed,” Chen said.

As family members gathered at the destination and departure airports, what caused the Boeing 737-800 to drop out of the sky shortly before it would have begun its descent to the southern metropolis of Guangzhou remained a mystery. The search for the black boxes, which hold the flight data and cockpit voice recorders essential to crash investigations, would be difficult, Xinhua said, and involve drones and manual search. A base of operations was set up near the crash site with rescue vehicles, ambulances, and an emergency power supply truck parked in the narrow space. Soldiers and rescue workers combed the charred crash site and surrounding heavily dense vegetation.

Security was stepped up at an entrance to Molang, a village near the crash site. Police could be seen checking each vehicle entering the village at a checkpoint. The steepness of the slope made positioning of heavy equipment difficult, although with few large pieces of the aircraft apparently remaining, there appeared little need for their use. China Eastern Flight 5735 was flying at 29,000 feet when it entered a steep, fast dive around 2:20pm, according to data from FlightRadar24.com. The plane plunged to 7,400 feet before briefly regaining about 1,200 feet, then dove again. The plane stopped transmitting data 96 seconds after starting to dive. China Eastern has grounded all of its 737-800s, China’s Transport Ministry said. Aviation experts said it is unusual to ground an entire fleet of planes unless there is evidence of a problem with the model. (Read more plane crash stories.)

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