BEIRUT, (AP) – A Lebanese forensics team has returned from Ethiopia with DNA samples from relatives to help identify victims of the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash last week south of Beirut, officials said Tuesday.
The Boeing 737 crashed into the Mediterranean Sea on Jan. 25 just minutes after takeoff from Beirut in a fierce thunderstorm. All 90 people on board were presumed dead and the plane’s black box and main body have not been found.
Search teams have recovered some bodies and pieces of the plane, but hope for finding any survivors has faded. There are conflicting numbers of how many bodies have been found, although at least 14 have been pulled out of the waters.
Another body, believed to be of one of the people who were on the plane, was retrieved from the sea Tuesday and was taken to a government hospital for DNA tests, Health Minister Mohammed Jawad Khalife said.
The Lebanese forensics returned from Ethiopia late Monday with DNA samples from relatives of the crash victims, security and judicial officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
According to lists released after the crash, 23 Ethiopian passengers were on the plane as well as seven crew members. It was not clear if all the crew were Ethiopians.
The officials said the Lebanese now have DNA samples of relatives of all the people who were on board except for two, a British citizen and a Syrian, and would contact relevant authorities to try to obtain those samples as well.
Eight Lebanese citizens and an Iraqi have been identified so far while five unidentified bodies are still at the hospital morgue.
Search operations continued Tuesday for the plane and the black box. Last week, a U.S. Navy ship, the USS Ramage, detected signals from the black box flight recorders at a depth of 4,265 feet (1,300 meters).
Lebanon’s government has formally asked the U.S.-based Odyssey Marine Explorations to send a submarine to help in retrieving the victims, more parts of the plane and the black box.