Egyptian officials said Thursday that a search vessel had discovered and retrieved the cockpit data recorder of EgyptAir Flight MS804, which crashed over the Mediterranean Sea en route from Paris to Cairo about a month ago. All 66 people onboard died, and the cause of the disaster remains unknown — but officials are hoping the black-box recorder, one of two on the plane, can finally give them clues as to what doomed the airliner.
The cockpit recorder was found 13,000 feet beneath the surface of the Mediterranean. It was partially damaged, reports ABC News, but its memory storage unit appeared to be intact, so investigators should be able to examine and recover data from it. The other black box, the flight-data recorder, is still missing.
The black box is currently on its way to Alexandria, Egypt, where investigators will pore over its contents. Officials have speculated that a catastrophic event brought down the plane, hinting that terrorism or human error were more likely than a mechanical failure — but, ultimately, the investigators have little to go on. No group has claimed responsibility for downing the jet.
Search teams were racing against the clock to find the black boxes. The recorders send out signals for 30 days until the batteries die, making them nearly impossible to pinpoint after that. Earlier this month, Egyptian officials detected pings within its search area, which they believed belonged to one of the recorders. But until today nothing had been recovered.
The big black-box breakthrough comes a day after the same search vessel discovered the wreckage of the crashed jet. The main wreckage was apparently seen at “several main locations” by the research boat’s underwater robot, reports The Guardian. The investigators got images of the wreckage, which they’ll use to draw a map of the crash scene.