Russian Crash Investigators Find First Black Box

A man looks out at the Black Sea from the coastal city of Sochi on Monday, a day after a military plane crashed out at sea. ENLARGE
A man looks out at the Black Sea from the coastal city of Sochi on Monday, a day after a military plane crashed out at sea. Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

MOSCOW—Rescue workers recovered the flight-data recorder from the Russian military aircraft that crashed into the Black Sea on Sunday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday.

The ministry said in a statement that one of the plane’s two so-called black boxes was found early Tuesday morning one mile away from the shore. The data recorder will be transported to a military research facility near Moscow to be deciphered, it added.

A Tu-154 passenger plane belonging to the Russian military crashed minutes after takeoff from the southern Russian city of Sochi, killing all 92 people on board.

The crash has been a national tragedy in Russia. More than 60 members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, a popular army performing group that was flying to Syria to entertain Russian troops, were killed in the crash. Journalists, military personnel and a renowned Russian doctor and philanthropist were also on board.

Dozens of passengers, including many from a Russian military choir, were en route to Syria for a holiday performance and likely perished after their plane went down minutes after takeoff early Sunday. The cause is still being investigated. Photo: AP

Along with the other black box—the cockpit voice recorder—the flight-data recorder could offer officials the best chance of determining why the plane crashed. On Monday, both the transportation minister and Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, ruled out a terrorist attack as the likely cause.

The FSB emphasized that the plane was under strict military control during a refueling stop in Sochi before takeoff.

While officials are yet to determine the cause of the crash, they are looking into the whether it was related to the technical condition of the plane or the quality of the fuel, or whether there was a pilot error or foreign objects were caught in the engine.

Official pronouncements appear in part directed to assuage public concern about the possibility of a terrorist attack similar to the one that downed a Russian passenger jet in October 2015 over Egypt, killing all 224 on board. Islamic State’s Egyptian branch, Sinai Province, claimed responsibility for that crash, and Islamic State released a photo showing an improvised explosive device the group said it smuggled aboard the plane.

As of Tuesday, 12 bodies and 156 body fragments were found as a result of the recovery mission in Sochi, while the body of one passenger was identified by relatives, the Defense Ministry said.

The Russian military said that 45 ships, 12 planes, five helicopters and drones, as well as 192 divers were taking part in the recovery operation.

Divers found parts of the fuselage, fragments of the engine and various mechanical parts at night, the Defense Ministry said.

Write to Olga Razumovskaya at olga.razumovskaya@wsj.com

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