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Black Boxes, human remains, debris recovered from cargo jet crash site

Members of the recovery team load the second black box onto a boat for transport back to land, and then on a plane to Washington, D.C. for data recovery and analysis.

ANAHUAC – Search teams have found the missing “black boxes” from the wreckage of the Atlas Air 767-300 cargo jet that crashed into Trinity Bay last Saturday, February 23rd, on a flight from Miami to Houston. They have also recovered the remains of the three crewmen that were on the plane when it went down. The third body had proven hard to find, as well as the black boxes, due to the thick mud below the murky, opaque water. But hundreds of volunteers, some from the Texas Search and Rescue organization, methodically waded through the water feeling below, when they couldn’t see. Dive teams from Houston, Baytown, and the state DPS were assisting in the search, as well as other authorities such as the Chambers County’s sheriff and fire departments.

They announced last Sunday, March 3rd, that they had recovered the Flight Data Recorder. Earlier they had found the Cockpit Voice Recorder. They also said that they had found remains of the third victim from the plane, which had eluded the searchers for days after the first two bodies were discovered in the waters of Jack’s Pocket, a backwater of Trinity Bay near Anahuac. Aboard the plane had been the pilot and the copilot, Capt. Ricky Blakely and First Officer Conrad Aska, and another pilot Capt. Sean Archuleta who was riding back to his home in Houston. The plane was carrying cargo for both Amazon and the U.S. Postal Service, according to the airline. Most of the packages were strewn through the bay, as well as hundreds of small pieces of the Boeing 767 jumbo jet. Very few large pieces survived the crash.

A barge is loaded with small pieces of the airplane and cargo, to be transported back to a hangar at Chambers County Airport for inspection and analysis. Complete recovery is expected to take months.

The two black box recorders have been sent to the NTSB laboratories in Washington, D.C. for analysis. The cargo plane was on a flight from Miami to Houston. About 30 minutes from landing at Houston Intercontinental airport, air traffic controllers warned the pilot that he was headed toward bad weather. The pilot asked for permission to fly around the storm, to the west. After that transmission, no other voice was heard from the plane. Flying at about 12,000 feet, at 12:35 the plane disappeared from radar, without a distress signal or other communication. Witnesses said the plane nose-dived into Trinity Bay near Anahuac, in about 30 seconds.

First responders from Chambers County did not find any survivors or identifiable portions of the plane, except for small fragments. Authorities said the debris field stretched for almost 3 miles in length. Search and recovery teams have been busy this week, loading debris and packages from the plane onto a barge. These are being transported to a hangar at Chambers County Airport for examination and reconstruction.

Authorities do not have a cause for the plane crash at this time, but NTSB expects that the information they get from the recorders will help solve the mystery.