‘It’s just torn earth:’ 15 bags of mail, two damaged ‘black boxes’ found at site where mail flight crashed


The cause of a postal flight crash near Tromsø remains unknown more than 10 days after it occurred, as both “black boxes” were heavily damaged during the impact that also destroyed nearly all the cargo and presumably killed both pilots, investigators said Tuesday.

Two members of the Swedish Accident Investigation Board are traveling to France this week to get an expert analysis of the black boxes to determine if any information can be salvaged, said Jonas Bäckstrand, deputy secretary-general of the board, in an interview with NRK.

“Neither the Norwegian nor Swedish investigation agencies have the equipment necessary to get the information from the cockpit voice recorder and the tachograph,” he said.

The analysis is expected to take about a week, Bäckstrand said.

The  CRJ-200 jet operated by the Swedish company West Air crashed just across the Swedish border near Akkajaure after sending out a mayday signal at 12:20 a.m. Jan. 8 while en route from Oslo to Tromsø.

The impact created a crater 30 meters in diameter, scatter debris up to 100 meters and resulted in large fuel leaks that complicated salvage efforts. Human remains were found Sunday, although they have not been confirmed as being either the 42-year-old pilot from Spain and 34-year-old co-pilot from France.

“It looks like a bomb was released,” Kjell Arvidsson, a helicopter pilot who first spotted the wreckage about two-and-a-half hours after the accident, told Expressen. “It’s a big brown hole in the ground. One sees no metal pieces or anything, it’s just torn earth.”

The mail and cargo was destined for Svalbard and other areas of northern Norway.

“There was around four-and-a-half tons of mail on board the aircraft, and much of this is probably lost, but rescuers have done an excellent job and have gathered about 15 bags to be handed over to Norway,” said John Eckhoff, a spokesman for Norway Post. “It will then be forwarded to our people who are going to  examine the contents and redistribute it to be sent to the recipients.”

In addition to mail, fresh goods such as produce and milk destined for Svalbard were aboard the plane. New supplies were sent by ship the day of the crash and arrived in Longyearbyen the following Monday, but there have been intermittent shortages during the past week as West Air temporarily grounded its two other CRJ-200 planes.

“We put them on the ground after the accident to collect ourselves a little and take care of the staff in Tromsø,” Gustaf Thureborn, the airline’s administrative director, told iTromsø. “It’s a tight group that needed time to cope with the accident.”

The planes are back in service as of this week, he said.