Greek plane crash investigation

Air accident investigators in Greece are resuming the sifting through the wreckage of the Boeing 737 which crashed near Athens killing all 121 people on board. The "black boxes" have been recovered from the Cypriot jetliner that crashed Sunday in Greece.

They investigators will also examine evidence from both the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder to try to find out exactly what happened.

Reports suggest that the pilot had told air traffic controllers the Helios Airways Boeing 737 was experiencing air conditioning problems, Channel 4 News says. Moments later, communications with the plane, flying at 35,000 feet en route from Larnaca in Cyprus to Prague via Athens, were lost and two Greek F-16 fighter jets were scrambled.

A mobile text message from one passenger to his cousin read: "The pilot has turned blue. Cousin farewell, we're freezing".

Police said there were no signs of survivors among the 115 passengers and six crew members on board the flight of which 59 adults and eight children were heading to Athens, with 48 continuing on to Prague.

The jet slammed into a mountain near the ancient city of Marathon - there were no survivors. An airline spokesman says 48 of the victims were children. It was the deadliest plane crash in Greek history.

CBS News Correspondent reports the children were Greeks returning from a vacation to Cyprus.

At the crash site, fire department officials say none of the bodies had masks on their faces. That could be a sign of rapid decompression.

One official says the 115 passengers and six crewmembers may have been dead when the plane went down, AP reports.

The remains of many victims are said to be charred beyond recognition. The transport minister for Cyprus says DNA tests will be needed.

The cause of the crash was unclear, but it looked like a technical problem — possibly decompression — and not terrorism. "The first indications, in Cyprus and in Greece, are that it was not caused by a terrorist act," said Marios Karoyian, a spokesman for Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos.

Greek state television quoted Cyprus Transport Minister Haris Thrasou as saying the plane had decompression problems in the past. However, Helios representative Dimitriou said the plane had "no problems and was serviced just last week."

On Cyprus, several callers to radio and television programs devoting their broadcasts to the crash said they experienced severe air-conditioning problems when flying on similar Helios jets in recent months. Some said the cabin was freezing and the crew had to provide them with blankets, while others said it became unbearably hot.

Sudden loss of cabin pressure was blamed for a similar crash in South Dakota in October 1999. A private Learjet 35 lost pressure, leaving pro golfer Payne Stewart and four others unconscious. The twin-engine jet went down in a pasture after flying halfway across the country on autopilot, AP reminds.

In June 2000, a Boeing 737-200 of the Canadian carrier WestJet lost cabin pressure soon after lift off because pilots mistakenly shut down the auxiliary power, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada determined. The cabin altitude reached 24,000 feet before the plane descended and pressurization became normal. None of the 118 passengers was injured.

In the Greek crash, the only piece of the plane that remained intact was the tail section. Bits of human flesh, clothing, and luggage were scattered around the wreckage, which also started brush fires around the area.

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