x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Plane crash parts found in sea

The first parts of a military plane that crashed into the Arabian Gulf near the Palm Deira have been recovered.

DUBAI // Divers have recovered the first parts of an Italian military jet that crashed into the Gulf near the Palm Deira 12 days ago.

"Small pieces have been recovered," said a spokesman for the defence attache of the Italian Embassy in Abu Dhabi.

"Besides Scuba divers, they [Dubai rescue police] were using sonars to detect the metal pieces of the plane."

The jet's co-pilot and flight engineer, Giovanni Paganini, was yesterday discharged from Rashid Hospital after recovering from surgery to his left leg, which he broke when he ejected. Mr Paganini then left for Italy.

His captain, Quirino Bucci, sustained slight injuries and was discharged from the hospital after a couple of days.

The Italian trainer M-346 crashed three nautical miles from the Palm Deira on November 18, less than half an hour after take-off.

The two pilots, flying home from the Dubai Airshow, ejected just before the aircraft hit the water. They were rescued less than five minutes after leaving the aircraft.

Cranes are being used to bring up the aircraft parts, which are about 20 metres under the sea. The embassy spokesman did not say which pieces had been recovered.

"In the last week, the Dubai Police rescue team, together with the Emirati Air Force, were able to locate and map the exact crash site, which requires a lot of effort because sand is covering most of the pieces," the official said.

The water above the crash site has been marked with buoys.

But low visibility underwater was hindering the recovery process, which began last Saturday.

"The visibility in the water is a great problem," the spokesman said.

Eight divers from the rescue team have been working 18 hours a day to retrieve the wreckage.

The exhaustive process involves locating all of the aircraft's parts, mapping the site, making videos and sharing them with the nine investigators from the UAE and Italian air forces, as well as the aircraft maker Alenia Aermacchi.

"It may be another five days to a week to pick up the entire wreckage," said a spokesman for the UAE Air Force.

"The operations are going smoothly and are on schedule."

Recovering aircraft debris from the sea normally takes months but the operations near Palm Deira are proceeding fairly quickly, he said, adding this was not the first time the country's Air Force had helped to clear air crash sites.

"We have retrieved wreckages before. The police and Air Force teams are well trained and are working around the clock to remove the parts," the officer said.

The parts and recording devices will be flown back to Italy where the cause of the crash will be investigated using computers.

pkannan@thenational.ae