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Air NZ Crash: Family And Friends Arrive At Crash Site

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More than 20 family and friends of the five New Zealanders killed in the Air New Zealand A320 crash will be in the French town of Perpignan by tomorrow.

The crash, off the Mediterranean coast of France on Friday (NZT), claimed seven lives – four Air New Zealand staff, a Civil Aviation Authority inspector and two German pilots.

Today the airline said the two black boxes recovered from the site had been so badly damaged they had to be sent to the manufacturers in North America to see if they could reveal any clues as to what caused the crash.

Air NZ group general manager international, Ed Sims, said so far 14 family members and friends of the victims were in France and seven more would arrive tomorrow (NZT).

“All the family and friends are being supported by representatives of the airline’s highly trained special assistance team,” he said.

“Everyone will be staying in the same hotel and (Air NZ) chief executive officer Rob Fyfe is personally meeting with them all and we are providing them with the latest information as it comes in from search teams,” Mr Sims said.

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Divers had recovered a cockpit voice recorder and a flight data recorder, which investigators were hoping would reveal the cause of the crash.

However, both had been badly damaged and would be sent to manufacturer Honeywell in North America to determine what data could be extracted from them, Mr Sims said.

Divers had also located the cockpit and found a third body nearby.

Two bodies were found last week and French authorities had made it clear they intended to continue the search and recovery operation until all bodies were found, he said.

“We cannot speak highly enough of the French authorities and the efforts they are putting into this operation,” Mr Sims said.

He said the Air NZ team in Perpignan included representatives from the airline’s emergency response team, security, operational safety, A320 fleet and communications divisions. There were also New Zealand police officers, and representatives of the New Zealand Airline Pilots Association and the Transport Accident Investigation Commission.

Mr Sims said the airline’s operations staff were world leaders in their fields and were on hand to provide specialist technical support to French authorities if required during the investigation.

Today at 2pm local time (2am NZ time) the airline held a service on the beach and at the crash site, Mr Sims said.

On the beach Mr Fyfe spoke about the great work the men who died had done and flight service managers and cabin crew performed a karakia as a “personal gesture to the New Zealand families”.

The family were then taken in two boats on a 20-minute journey to the crash site, where flowers and wreaths were placed and scattered.

Air New Zealand pilot Captain Brian Horrell, 52, and engineers Murray White, 37, Michael Gyles, 49, and Noel Marsh, 35 and as well as Civil Aviation Authority official Jeremy Cook, 58, were killed in the crash.

The plane was being flown by two German pilots from XL Airlines. The airline, which had leased the Airbus from Air NZ, said their names would not be released.

The plane was due to be returned to Air NZ.

French authorities have formally opened an investigation for “involuntary homicide”.

Mr Sims said that over the coming days Air NZ would only be able to release limited information on the search as the formal investigative process was underway.

“This will see our ability to communicate developments increasingly constrained under local law,” he said.

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