CBSN

Second Black Box Recovered

Divers on Friday recovered the cockpit voice recorder from Swissair Flight 111, an important find that could help investigators learn why the jet plummeted into the Atlantic.

Together with the flight data recorder, which records the flight's mechanical data and was retrieved earlier this week, the device may shed some light on the cause of the wreck that killed all 229 people aboard.

The voice box was found 180 feet below the ocean surface around 6 p.m. EDT Friday near where the data recorder had been found four days earlier, transportation officials said.

Although investigators already have a transcript of the conversation between the Swissair pilots and air controllers, the cockpit voice recorder may have picked up additional conversation between the two pilots, or irregular noises in the aircraft.

Stored in a box of fresh water to preserve it, the voice box was sent to Ottawa on Friday for analysis. Its condition was not immediately known, transportation board officials said.

Investigators have said the full transcripts of the tape would not be released to protect the privacy of the pilots.

Divers had been searching simultaneously for the box as well as for remains of victims of the Geneva-bound MD-11 Friday.

Late Thursday, divers recovered remains of passengers from the bottom of the ocean floor. The 22 divers, who can spend just 30 minutes combing the Atlantic floor at any one time, carried the remains 180 feet to the surface in bags.

It was the first time remains had been recovered from the ocean floor. Previously, body parts had been found floating on the surface of the Atlantic or washed up on the shore.

Out of respect for the families of the victims, authorities wouldn't say how many passengers may have been represented among the recovered remains. Rick Town, commander of the Canadian navy supply ship Preserver, said even a guess was impossible.

So far, only four victims have been identified out of the remains that have been recovered so far. The cause of the crash has not been determined.

Flight 111, which originated in New York, lost contact with air controllers six minutes before it crashed into the Atlantic on Sept. 2.

Divers said they had been focusing their search on the victims, although the voice recorder box was also a top priority.

"People come first," said Stan Ferguson, superintendent of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, just hours before the voice box was found. "To overlook the recovery of human remains is not right."

Swiss police Friday sent Canadian authorities the results of blood tests taken from the family members of flight victims to help identify remains. The blood tests will help in the construction of DNA profiles.

The police also gathered information relating to victims' personal belongings, documents and fingerprints.

The USS Grapple, which helped with the undersea recovery of wreckge of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island in 1996, began preparations to lift the mangled jet from the ocean depths, perhaps early next week.

Military spokesmen said the fuselage and other parts will not be hoisted until the human remains have been retrieved.

Memorial services for victims were held Friday in Geneva, Zurich, New York City, and at the United Nations.

"The tragedy of Halifax has just sadly reminded us of the fragility of our life and the absurdity of our frantic lifestyles," Swiss President Flavio Cotti said at the service in Geneva.

The service honored eight U.N. workers and one former employee who were killed in the crash.

"We share your grief all the more because the deaths of these nine exceptional people on a flight so familiar to many of us that we called it the U.N. airbus, come as a deep blow to their other family, too, that which we call the United Nations family," Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the families of the victims.

At the end of the one-hour service, Annan presented a folded blue U.N. flag to each family. One woman kissed her flag and hugged it tightly as she cried.

In their tribute, U.N. officials also added another crash victim, Ahamad Omran of Chad, a former worker for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.