Jet 'black box' sent to US for decoding

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Investigators into Sunday's El Al Boeing air disaster in Amsterdam suffered a severe set-back yesterday when it was found the tape in the flight data-recorder was too badly damaged to be decoded in Britain, writes Christian Wolmar.

The 'black box' was sent earlier this week to the Air Accident Investigation Branch at Farnborough in Hampshire but investigators have been unable to obtain any information from it.

The tape has been sent to the National Transportation Bureau in Washington. A spokeswoman for the Dutch civil aviation authority said: 'The equipment there is more sophisticated and we should be able to find out after the weekend if they can get any information from the tape.'

Searchers in Amsterdam have recovered parts of the No 3 engine near the site where the whole of the No 4 engine was found, but it is still not known whether most of No 3 engine fell from the aircraft before it crashed.

Meanwhile, one of the investigators gave three possible causes for the crash: a problem within the engine, the dislodging of a fuse pin which connects the engine with the wing and which was the subject of a Boeing service bulletin on Tuesday, or birds being sucked into the engine. Sabotage has still not been ruled out.

The Amsterdam authorities yesterday reported that, of the 50 charred human remains retrieved, only seven bodies have been identified so far. Two of the identified victims were not on the original list of about 250 persons feared missing or dead. One has been identified as a crew member, but it is not yet known which one.