US agencies have not validated Ethiopian Airlines black box data

Debris including a charred part of an onboard safety instruction card seen at the crash site of an Ethiopian Airways Boeing 737 Max aircraft, on March 16, 2019, at Hama Quntushele village near Bishoftu in Ethiopia. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - United States officials have not yet validated data from the black boxes of an Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed killing all 157 people on board, emphasising the investigation remains in the very early stages, two officials briefed on the matter told Reuters on Sunday (March 17).

Earlier on Sunday, a spokesman for the Ethiopian Transport Ministry said the data from the black boxes was successfully recovered and teams from the US and Ethiopia had validated it.

Citing analysis of the black boxes recovered from the wreckage of the March 10 disaster, the spokesman said the crash had "clear similarities" with October's Lion Air crash.

Investigators are trying to determine why the aircraft plunged into a field shortly after take-off from Addis Ababa, searching for possible similarities to the Lion Air crash that killed 189 people.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are assisting the investigators. The officials said that after investigators reviewing black box data return to Addis Ababa and start conducting interpretive work, the NTSB and FAA will assist in verification and validation of the data, the officials said.

NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss did not immediately comment on Sunday on the report that the NTSB had "validated" some data but said "As the US accredited representative to the Ethiopian-led investigation, the NTSB is a full partner during this fact-finding phase.

"That includes providing assistance in analysing the FDR data, working to develop a transcript from the CVR, processing and documenting on-scene evidence and participating in interviews."

The FAA said last Wednesday that some physical evidence recovered at the scene was part of the government's decision to order the planes' grounding.

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