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Missing engines, river, hamper crash probe: official

world Updated: Jan 17, 2009 12:00 IST

AFP
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The investigation into why a US Airways Airbus crashed into the Hudson has been hampered by the loss of both engines in the river and the inability to reach the plane's black box, officials has said.

Investigators questioned cabin crew yesterday and were to interview the pilot and co-pilot today, Kitty Higgins, a member of the National Transport Safety Board, told a press conference.

However the main clues to why the plane crashed on Thursday need to be found before investigators can know why the engines stopped shortly after take-off from LaGuardia Airport, possibly because of a collision with birds.

"Both engines are no longer attached to the plane," Higgins said.

Divers backed by sophisticated sonar "are out there now trying to locate the engines," she said. "I believe they started at the point where the plane came down and are moving down the river."

"If there was any kind of damage as a result of birds, my understanding is this will show up," Higgins said. "It's a very important piece of the puzzle."

The damaged plane is safely secured to a dock at the side of the Hudson, but it is mostly submerged and filled with water.

The black box flight data and voice recorders are in the tail of the plane and still inaccessible because of fierce currents and cold, Higgins said.

"We just can't get to them because of the problem of the currents, the water and the temperatures," she said.

There had been plans to raise the plane on Friday and put it on a barge, but this has been put off until about 10:00 am (2030 IST) on Saturday.