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Victims, Black Box from Crashed Chopper Found

The body of the last victim from a crashed quake relief helicopter in China was found after a 12-day search, military sources said on Wednesday.

Thus, the remains of all 18 people who were aboard the copter, including five crew members and 13 civilians injured in the May 12 earthquake, have all been found at the crash site near the epicenter town of Yingxiu, the Sichuan military quake relief headquarters said.

The black box voice recorder has also been found, the headquarters said.

On Tuesday, searchers discovered the wreckage of the chopper that crashed deep in the mountains on May 31 while ferrying 13 people injured in the 8.0-magnitude quake. The wreckage was widely scattered among heavy vegetation.

One person formerly reported as having been on board did not take the helicopter.

More than 100 people have arrived at the crash site to clear the scene and do forensic identification.

Photography, DNA sampling, identity confirmation and epidemic prevention have all been done on the remains, the headquarters said.

Silent mourning was observed at the scene before the bodies were put into bags. Their shipment to the quake relief headquarters in Yingxiu would start on Thursday.

However, the military admitted that it would be no easy task due to the complicated terrain and unstable weather conditions.

More than 1,000 soldiers had been mobilized to carry the bodies out of the region on foot, as the site was too mountainous and the forest cover too thick to allow rescue helicopters to land.

However, steep, densely-forested canyons and heavy rains would make the march with stretchers more difficult than people could imagine, said Zhang Peimin, an officer with the Sichuan Military Area Command.

He said a temporary helicopter pad might still need to be built, but that wouldn't be any easier.

The bodies might not arrive at Yingxiu until Friday or even Saturday, he said.

About 100 helicopters had been deployed to find the Mi-171 military transport helicopter since its crash, while more than 300 rescue teams comprised of 10,000 troops and local residents combed the region to search for the missing aircraft.

Advanced technology, including remote sensing and infrared photography, was used in the search, the military said.

(Xinhua News Agency June 12, 2008)

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