Of the 151 passengers and 10 crew members on the plane operated by the Lebanese-owned Union des Transports Africains (UTA), 24 people are confirmed to have survived the Christmas Day crash. The plane was bound for Beirut and most of the casualties are Lebanese.
A Benin government source said on Monday that French experts had begun to analyse both the voice and data recorders recovered by divers. The plane crashed during take off, slamming into a building before crashing into the Gulf of Guinea.
The impoverished West African state has neither the technology nor the expertise to carry out the black-box analysis itself and asked for assistance from France, said the source.
Benin government sources also said on Monday that they were considering a request from Lebanon to be involved in the investigation into the crash, the worst in both Lebanese and Benin aviation history.
Thousands of Lebanese nationals have settled in West Africa and are typically involved in commerce, making them the backbone of the country’s economy.
Survivors in hospital
A French military plane landed in Beirut late on Sunday, carrying the remains of 77 Lebanese and two Iranians. Twenty survivors, among them two Palestinians and a Syrian national, had arrived at dawn on Saturday and were immediately taken to hospital.
Body of Lebanese victim Khalid
Twenty-three bodies were returned on Sunday to Guinea, northwest of Benin along the Atlantic coast, where the flight had originated.
France on Monday said three of its nationals had also been killed in the crash, though it was unclear whether they had also held a second, possibly Lebanese, citizenship.
The flight’s co-pilot, a Libyan national, remained in hospital in Cotonou.
Crash details unclear
Lebanese Foreign Minister Jean Obeid, who headed an official delegation to Benin following the crash, said on his return to Beirut on Saturday that “preliminary information indicated there was an excess number of passengers and a great excess of luggage… the plane could not take off.”
News reports in Lebanon have said the Guinea-registered UTA plane had tried to take off with about eight tonnes of excess baggage.
A plane was to arrive Monday from Beirut carrying grieving families, hoping to identify the remaining bodies at the morgue, said the Benin transport ministry.
And across Lebanon, funerals were held for the victims, as entire villages mourned.
Meanwhile, the bodies of 15 Bangladeshi United Nations peacekeepers, also killed in the crash, were expected to be flown to Dhaka on Tuesday, said a military spokesman.
He said the bodies would be flown to Bangladesh on a special
United Nations aircraft.
The 15 officers were deployed in UN peacekeeping missions in Sierra Leone and Liberia, according to a military statement.
The Christmas Day crash was Bangladesh’s biggest military loss in a single incident.