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Investigators Search for Flight Recorder from Egyptian Crash Site - 2004-01-05

Search and recovery efforts are continuing in the Red Sea for bodies and wreckage following Saturday's jetliner crash off the Egyptian coast, killing 148 people. Investigators plan to utilize special equipment in the search effort.

Search teams are hoping that sensitive tracking equipment will lead them to the fuselage and the flight data recorder from the chartered Egyptian 737 that crashed into the Red Sea Saturday, killing 148 people aboard, most of them French tourists.

An electronic sensor capable of detecting the plane's flight recorder was placed in the water Monday, while a French navy patrol plane scanned the crash area. The plane will help guide search vessels toward the wreck.

Once the flight recorder has been located, a French submersible robot will be used to retrieve the recorder. The robot has a remotely controlled camera, headlights and an arm for retrieving objects. The main portion of the plane is believed to be 400 meters under water, which is too deep for divers.

Investigators hope the data recorder will help them learn why the chartered plane crashed shortly after take-off.

French and Egyptian officials have said radar data suggest the plane may have experienced mechanical problems before plummeting into the sea.

A senior French official said there were no burn marks on the remains of victims recovered so far, suggesting the aircraft was not brought down by an explosion.

Monday, a French transportation official, Gilles de Robien, said Flash Airlines, which operated the ill-fated Boeing 737, has a good reputation and had passed several inspections by French authorities during the past year. But Swiss aviation authorities said the company was barred from operating in Swiss airspace since October 2002 because of safety concerns.