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Mexico probes flight data from minister's crash
Thu Nov 6, 2008 7:06pm EST
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By Mica Rosenberg
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Two in-flight recorders rescued from the burned wreckage of a small jet that crashed and killed Mexico's interior minister were being examined on Thursday by U.S. experts in a Washington lab, Mexican officials said.
The "black boxes" have voice recordings and data from the final minutes before the jet, also carrying President Felipe Calderon's top drug war adviser, disappeared from radar screens and crashed in a busy Mexico City district on Tuesday.
The crash killed all nine people on board -- including Interior Minister Juan Camilo Mourino, the No. 2 figure in Calderon's government as it wages a war on drug cartels -- and five more on the ground.
The government has gone to unusual lengths to open up its investigation to the media, playing back audio and radar images from the plane's descent toward the international airport, as it tries to play down speculation of sabotage.
Mexico has a dark history of political assassinations and drug gang threats, but Transport and Communications Minister Luis Tellez said investigators have found no evidence of foul play.
"In about a week we should have clear and precise information about what is on those recordings," Tellez told a news conference, as Mexican investigators scoured the wreckage for clues.
The government Learjet crashed into evening rush-hour traffic on Tuesday, setting cars ablaze and shooting flames into the sky. A dozen people were being treated for burns.
U.S. and British experts were in Mexico helping analyze the Learjet's maintenance records, review communication transcripts with air traffic controllers and examine forensic evidence, weather conditions and the flight crew's background.
INVESTIGATING ALL ANGLES
Representatives from Learjet, which are made by Bombardier Inc, and from Honeywell International Inc, which manufactures the jets' engines, were also in Mexico helping with the investigation, Tellez said.
One hypothesis put forward by Mexican media is that turbulence from a larger plane could have knocked the Learjet off course as it lined up to land at Mexico City airport.
A person claiming to be a pilot wrote on the comments section of a Mexican news blog that the same government Learjet had followed too closely behind his plane in the past.
"I am a captain of a Boeing 767 and a few months ago, during the descent into Mexico, this pilot came too close to us," said the blogger called Ramon Ortega. He said he had cautioned the pilot about keeping a safe distance.
Calderon told a teary-eyed cabinet after the crash that he was sure it was an accident, El Universal daily reported.
Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, who was also killed, was a ex-deputy attorney general with years of drug war experience. Continued...
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