DAVAO, Philippines -- Searchers today recovered the flight data recorder and the remains of most of the victims from an Air Philippines jet that crashed on a resort island, killing all 131 people aboard in the nation's worst aviation disaster.
Heavy rain and mud had forced rescuers to suspend their search overnight for the remains of the 124 passengers and seven crew members, but recovery efforts resumed today despite a drizzle.
Many of the passengers on the 22-year-old Boeing 737-200, which plowed into a foggy coconut grove on Samal island early Wednesday, were traveling home for the Easter holiday.
The pilot of the jet had reported poor visibility several minutes before the accident, according to airport transcripts obtained today.
The conversations between the airport tower and the pilot also show that air traffic controllers tried unsuccessfully at least twice to hurry an earlier plane off the runway so the Air Philippines jet could land.
Air Philippines flight 541 was forced to abandon its initial approach because of the other plane, and crashed on Samal as it attempted to land from the opposite direction.
Grieving relatives identified 17 of the badly battered and charred remains at a military base where 89 bags of body parts were taken, officials said.
''He asked me what I wanted for a present,'' said Ivy Jill, a 27-year-old nurse who had been at the airport to pick up her boyfriend Anil Daswani. ''I told him just come home safely.''
The bags contained 95 percent of the human remains that could be found at the crash site, said army Brig. Gen. Alberto Braganza, ground commander of the recovery operations. ''The others have been totally burned,'' he said.
First lady Loi Ejercito visited many relatives of crash victims at a hotel today to express condolences on behalf of the president.
The flight data recorder, one of the plane's two ''black boxes,'' was recovered early today, said Jacinto Ortega, chief of the Air Transportation Office. It and the cockpit voice recorder, located Wednesday, will be sent to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board for analysis, which should take about a week, he said.
Recovery of the data recorder was delayed because the tail section of the plane where it was located smoldered for many hours after the accident, he said.
The plane, which originated in Manila, was unable to land on its first approach to Davao, a thriving commercial center in the southern Philippines, because another plane was on the runway, air traffic controllers said. The plane circled the airport and crashed as it attempted to land from the opposite direction, they said.
Witnesses on Samal said the plane was flying low and hit the top of a coconut tree, which knocked off part of its wing. It tried to climb higher with a roar of its engines, but fell back to earth and exploded, they said.
The crash was the Philippines' third major transportation accident in a week. Last Wednesday, an overloaded cargo ship carrying more than 200 illegal passengers capsized after leaving southern Sulu province, killing at least 148 people. On Monday, a ferry sank south of Manila. All 137 people aboard were rescued.
Air Philippines, the country's second-largest airline, said the plane went through a normal maintenance check before taking off and no problems were found.
Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado said it was too early to tell the cause of the crash, but there were indications of low visibility at the time.
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