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Investigators find second black box; Recovery work continues after US jet crash tragedy.

INVESTIGATORS have found te flight data recorder that could yield clues about the final seconds of the American Airlines crash in New York that killed more than 260 people.

The data recorder was one of the two "black boxes" aboard Flight 587. The other, the cockpit voice recorder, was found shortly after Monday's crash.

The flight data recorder tracks the speed and actions of the engine and instruments. Authorities said the voice recorder did not indicate any problems aboard the flight that crashed less than three minutes after leaving nearby John F Kennedy Airport.

"The communications from the cockpit were normal up until the last few seconds before the crash, " said Marion Blakey, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). She did not elaborate on the last few moments, but authorities did not rule out sabotage or other potential causes.

"We're not going to exclude that possibility until the investigation goes much further than this, " George Black, a member of the NTSB, said.

A source close to the investigation said the board was also looking at whether the engines failed after sucking in birds. John F Kennedy Airport, running along Jamaica Bay, has had problems with birds on the runway.

All 260 people aboard the European-made Airbus A300 were killed, the airline said. Five other people were reported missing on the ground, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said.

Relatives of the victims gathered in hope of recovering their loved ones' remains.

Outside a family assistance centre in Manhattan, Guillermina Roy, 18, whose mother was among those missing in the crash, said: "I still don't know if they found her. I hope I can find out some information."

The mayor said 262 bodies had been recovered along with 180 body parts. According to police, the bodies included a man found holding a baby.

The crash happened just two months after two hijacked planes - one an American Airlines jet - levelled the World Trade Centre 15 miles away, leaving more than 4,000 people missing or dead.

Witnesses in the Rockaway Beach section of the borough of Queens reported hearing an explosion and seeing an engine, a large chunk of a wing and other debris falling from the sky as the plane came down.

But if there was an explosion on the plane - and many witnesses said they heard one - it was probably caused by a mechanical failure, investigators said.

There have been documented failures involving the family of CF6 General Electric engines on the plane, though none involved fatalities.

The Federal Aviation Administration warned just last month that its own study of problems with these engines indicates a need for tougher, mandatory inspections of possibly worn parts.

The NTSB warned separately less than a year ago that an inflight failure of these engines could send hot metal fragments tearing through important control systems or fuel lines - and could cause a plane to crash.

Looking for clues in chaos INthe beachfront neighbourhood where American Airlines Flight 587 came down, investigators will scour the metal wreckage for clues to confirm suspicions that mechanical failure caused the crash.

They will seek answers in the distinct patterns of scattered debris and the shapes of pieces of metal.

After mapping the wreckage, the National Transportation Safety Board's emergency response teams will also look for signs of sabotage.

A chemical analysis of the carbon and soot blackening the wreckage would find evidence of explosives if any were present, Brian Jenkins, an aviation safety expert said.

CAPTION(S):

DESPERATE HOURS: New York City firefighters in protective suits walk through the area of the American Airlines flight 587 plane crash in Rockaway Beach, New York
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 14, 2001
Words:607
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