Ethiopian Air Says All Crash Bodies Recovered

February 23, 2010

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Ethiopia's state carrier said on Tuesday all 90 bodies had been recovered from an Ethiopian Airlines aircraft that crashed off Lebanon last month, and insisted it was too early to say what caused the disaster.

The Boeing 737-800 crashed minutes after taking off from Beirut en route to Addis Ababa in stormy weather on January 25.

"All bodies of the victims from ET409 accident have now been recovered and identified," the airline said in a statement. "Arrangement is being made to repatriate bodies of the Ethiopian and other nationals to their countries."

A source familiar with the investigation into the accident said earlier this month that the team had concluded pilot error was to blame. Lebanese media outlets echoed that report on Monday.

Ethiopian Airlines earlier this month said that it still had not ruled out sabotage.

On Tuesday, the airline said vital information and facts were still missing and any indication of cause of the crash would be "speculative, incorrect and misleading."

The Lebanese Army said the plane broke up in mid-air before crashing into the sea. Witnesses described it as crashing in a ball of flame.

Lebanese, French and Ethiopian officials are in France analysing the flight data and cockpit voice recorders.

Lebanese officials say the pilot failed to respond to the control tower's instruction to change direction, even though he acknowledged the request.

The plane made an unexpected sharp turn before disappearing off the radar, the Lebanese transport minister said at the time.

The eight-year-old plane, carrying mostly Lebanese and Ethiopian passengers, last had a maintenance check on December 25 with no technical problems reported.