Russia finds first black box from Black Sea plane crash

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MOSCOW, Dec 27 (Reuters) - Russia has found the first flight recorder from a military plane that crashed into the Black Sea killing all 92 on board, the Defence Ministry said on Tuesday, amid unconfirmed reports that authorities had grounded all aircraft of the same type.

The recorder, one of several reported to be on board, contains information that could help investigators identify the cause of Sunday's crash, which killed dozens of Red Army Choir singers and dancers en route to Syria to entertain Russian troops in the run-up to the New Year.

Investigators have so far said that pilot error or a technical fault, rather than terrorism, are most likely to have caused the Defence Ministry Tupolev-154 to crash into the sea.

See more from the incident:

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Russian military jet crashes into Black Sea
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Russian military jet crashes into Black Sea
SOCHI, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 25 : Rescuers carry the body of a victim of Russian Defense Ministry's TU-154 crash, found at the site of the Tu-154 plane crash near Sochi, Russia, 25 December 2016. A Tu-154 aircraft of the Russian Defense Ministry has crashed in the Black Sea after it disappeared from radar, regional emergency service said on December 25, 2016. The aircraft was en route to Syrias Latakia to take part in a New Year's concert. Among the 92 people onboard the crashed plane, eight were crew members, the Russian defense ministry said in a statement. The ministry confirmed that there were also nine journalists along with musicians from the Red Army Choir, or the Alexandrov Ensemble. (Photo by Ekaterina Lyzlova/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 25, 2016: A search and rescue operation at the crash site of a Russian Defense Ministry plane. A Tupolev Tu-154 plane of the Russian Defense Ministry with 92 people on board crashed into the Black Sea near the city of Sochi on December 25, 2016. The plane was carrying members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, Russian servicemen and journalists to Russia's Hmeymim air base in Syria. Fragments of the plane were found about 1.5km from Sochi coastline. Artur Lebedev/TASS (Photo by Artur Lebedev\TASS via Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 25 : Rescue boats search for the wreckage of a crashed Russian Tu-154 plane, belonging to the Russian Defense Ministry near the coastline of Sochi, Russia on December 25, 2016. A Tu-154 aircraft of the Russian Defense Ministry has crashed in the Black Sea after it disappeared from radar, regional emergency service said on December 25, 2016. The aircraft was en route to Syrias Latakia to take part in a New Year's concert. Among the 92 people onboard the crashed plane, eight were crew members, the Russian defense ministry said in a statement. The ministry confirmed that there were also nine journalists along with musicians from the Red Army Choir, or the Alexandrov Ensemble. (Photo by Ekaterina Lyzlova/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 25, 2016: A search and rescue operation at the crash site of a Russian Defense Ministry plane. A Tupolev Tu-154 plane of the Russian Defense Ministry with 92 people on board crashed into the Black Sea near the city of Sochi. The plane was carrying members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, Russian servicemen and journalists to Russia's Hmeymim air base in Syria. Fragments of the plane were found about 1.5km from Sochi coastline. Artur Lebedev/TASS (Photo by Artur Lebedev\TASS via Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 25 : Rescue boats search for the wreckage of a crashed Russian Tu-154 plane, belonging to the Russian Defense Ministry near the coastline of Sochi, Russia on December 25, 2016. A Tu-154 aircraft of the Russian Defense Ministry has crashed in the Black Sea after it disappeared from radar, regional emergency service said on December 25, 2016. The aircraft was en route to Syrias Latakia to take part in a New Year's concert. Among the 92 people onboard the crashed plane, eight were crew members, the Russian defense ministry said in a statement. The ministry confirmed that there were also nine journalists along with musicians from the Red Army Choir, or the Alexandrov Ensemble. (Photo by Ekaterina Lyzlova/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 25 : Rescue boats search for the wreckage of a crashed Russian Tu-154 plane, belonging to the Russian Defense Ministry near the coastline of Sochi, Russia on December 25, 2016. A Tu-154 aircraft of the Russian Defense Ministry has crashed in the Black Sea after it disappeared from radar, regional emergency service said on December 25, 2016. The aircraft was en route to Syrias Latakia to take part in a New Year's concert. Among the 92 people onboard the crashed plane, eight were crew members, the Russian defense ministry said in a statement. The ministry confirmed that there were also nine journalists along with musicians from the Red Army Choir, or the Alexandrov Ensemble. (Photo by Ekaterina Lyzlova/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 25 : Rescue boats search for the wreckage of a crashed Russian Tu-154 plane, belonging to the Russian Defense Ministry near the coastline of Sochi, Russia on December 25, 2016. A Tu-154 aircraft of the Russian Defense Ministry has crashed in the Black Sea after it disappeared from radar, regional emergency service said on December 25, 2016. The aircraft was en route to Syrias Latakia to take part in a New Year's concert. Among the 92 people onboard the crashed plane, eight were crew members, the Russian defense ministry said in a statement. The ministry confirmed that there were also nine journalists along with musicians from the Red Army Choir, or the Alexandrov Ensemble. (Photo by Ekaterina Lyzlova/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Flowers in memory of passengers and crew members of Russian military Tu-154, which crashed into the Black Sea on its way to Syria on Sunday, are placed at an embankment in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, Russia, December 26, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People lay flowers in memory of passengers and crew members of Russian military Tu-154, which crashed into the Black Sea on its way to Syria on Sunday, at an embankment in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, Russia, December 26, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Specialists unload submersibles for underwater search, after Russian military Tu-154 crashed into the Black Sea on its way to Syria on Sunday, at a port of the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, Russia December 26, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
A woman lights a candle next to flowers and a portrait of one of the victims, famous Russian charity activist and founder of the Voters' League Elizaveta Glinka or Dr Liza, at a makeshift memorial at the embankment on the shore of the Black Sea in Sochi, on December 27, 2016, as rescue vessels search the area two days after a military plane carrying 92 people, including dozens of members of the Red Army Choir, crashed in the Black Sea. The main black box of the Syria-bound Russian military plane that crashed into the Black Sea with 92 people onboard has been found in a massive ongoing search operation, authorities said on December 27, 2016. The Tu-154 jet, whose passengers included more than 60 members of the internationally renowned Red Army Choir, was heading to Russia's military airbase in Syria when it went down off the coast of the resort city of Sochi shortly after take-off on December 25. / AFP / VASILY MAXIMOV (Photo credit should read VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 26, 2016: Emergency workers recover Tupolev Tu-154 wreckage from the black Sea. The Tu-154 plane of the Russian Defense Ministry with 92 people on board crashed into the Black Sea near the city of Sochi on December 25, 2016. The plane was carrying members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, Russian servicemen and journalists, and Yelizaveta Glinka (known as Doctor Liza), Spravedlivaya Pomoshch [Just Aid] International Public Organisation director, to Russia's Hmeymim air base in Syria. Fragments of the plane were found about 1.5km from Sochi coastline. Press office of the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry/TASS (Photo by TASS\TASS via Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 26:Specialists unload submersibles for underwater search, after Russian military Tu-154 crashed into the Black Sea, at a port of the Black Sea resort city of Sochi on December 26, 2016 in Sochi, Russia. Tupolev Tu-154 was carrying 92 people, including 68 members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, the official choir of the Russian Armed Forces, previously known as the Red Army Choir, nine journalists, and eight crew, as well as several servicemen. One of the people aboard was a famous Russian human rights activist, Yelizaveta Glinka (known as Doctor Liza). The plane crashed en route to Syria where the band had been going to perform during the New Year concert. (Photo by Dmitry Korotayev/Kommersant via Getty Images)
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The first black box, which was founded by a remote-controlled underwater vehicle at a depth of around 55ft (17 meters) and 1 mile (1,600 meters) from the resort of Sochi, will be sent to a Defence Ministry facility in Moscow for analysis.

"During the night during the (search operation) ... a further five fragments of the plane were found," the ministry said in a statement. They included pieces of fuselage and engine fragments.

The Interfax news agency cited an unnamed source as saying Russia had grounded all TU-154 planes until the cause of Sunday's crash became clear. There was no official confirmation of that.

The Defence Ministry says the downed jet, a Soviet-era plane built in 1983, had last been serviced in September and underwent more major repairs in December 2014.

Russian pilots say the TU-154 has a decent safety record, though major Russian commercial airlines have long since replaced it with Western-built planes.

The last big TU-154 crash was in 2010 when a Polish jet carrying then-president Lech Kaczynski and much of Poland's political elite went down in western Russia killing everyone on board.

The Interfax news agency, citing a law enforcement source, said a second flight recorder had also been found in the wreckage of Sunday's crash, but not yet raised to the surface.

The Defence Ministry said that search and rescue teams have so far recovered 12 bodies and 156 body fragments. (Editing by John Stonestreet)

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