BANGKOK (AP) — Investigators in Laos said Tuesday they have retrieved the midsection of a Lao Airlines passenger plane that crashed into the Mekong River a week ago, killing all 49 people on board, but said they have not recovered the flight recorder.
The Lao Airlines ATR-72 turboprop plane crashed last Wednesday during a heavy storm as it approached Pakse Airport in southern Laos. It struck a riverbank and then plowed into the swift-running river.
Yakua Lopangkao, director-general of Laos' Department of Civil Aviation, said searchers used a crane to lift the middle of the fuselage from the river but believe the "black box," or flight recorder, is still underwater.
"We could still pick up the signal from the black box, which might have fallen out of the plane's midsection when we pulled it out from the water," he said. "We will keep searching for it."
Strong currents and deep, muddy water have hampered the search, which is currently led by French experts.
Investigators using sonar and other equipment picked up signals from underwater over the weekend and narrowed their search to the area they believed might be the location of the black box.
Yakua said 43 bodies have been recovered and the search team found body parts in the river on Tuesday. He previously said authorities believed they had found 44 bodies.
According to the airline, 44 passengers and five crew members were on the flight. The passengers included citizens of Laos, France, Australia, Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Taiwan and the United States.