Investigators retrieve black boxes from Mexican plane after stormy crash

DURANGO, Mexico, Aug 1 (Reuters) - Investigators sifting through the wreckage of an Aeromexico passenger jet on Wednesday located the plane's flight recorders, which may hold clues about what caused it to crash as it took off during stormy weather in northern Mexico.

The Mexico City-bound Embraer 190 passenger jet smashed into scrubland near the runway shortly after the plane took off from an airport in northern Durango state on Tuesday. All 103 passengers and crew survived by evacuating the plane before it caught fire.

Nearly everyone on the flight suffered minor injuries, Mexican officials said.

Luis Gerardo Fonseca, director of Mexico's civil aviation agency, told local news media on Wednesday that the recorders had been found. "We already have them," he said in an interview with broadcaster Televisa.

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Aeromexico plane crashes in Mexico's Durango state
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Aeromexico plane crashes in Mexico's Durango state
Picture showing the wreckage of a plane that crashed with 97 passengers and four crew on board on take off at the airport of Durango, in northern Mexico, on July 31, 2018. - Dozens of people were injured as an airliner crashed on takeoff during a heavy hail storm in northern Mexico, engulfing the plane in flames, Aeromexico airline and passengers said Tuesday. (Photo by Kevin ALCANTAR / KEVIN ALCANTAR DRONES DURANGO / AFP) (Photo credit should read KEVIN ALCANTAR/AFP/Getty Images)

A person watches as smoke billows above a site where an Aeromexico-operated Embraer passenger jet crashed in Mexico's northern state of Durango, July 31, 2018, in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media.

(Francisco Javier Castrellon/via REUTERS)

Corporaciones de emergencia y seguridad se encuentran en el km17 de la autopista Durango - Torreón atendiendo accid… https://t.co/lZizrQ4y4E
Picture released by Contacto Hoy showing an injured man at the airport of Durango, in northern Mexico, after a plane carrying 97 passengers and four crew crashed during take off on July 31, 2018. - Dozens of people were injured as an airliner crashed on takeoff during a heavy hail storm in northern Mexico, engulfing the plane in flames, Aeromexico airline and passengers said Tuesday. (Photo by STR / CONTACTO HOY / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO / CONTACTO HOY' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Ambulances are seen at the airport of Durango, in northern Mexico, after a plane carrying 97 passengers and four crew crashed on take off near the city's airport on July 31, 2018. - Dozens of people were injured as an airliner crashed on takeoff during a heavy hail storm in northern Mexico, engulfing the plane in flames, Aeromexico airline and passengers said Tuesday. (Photo by LULU MURILLO / AFP) (Photo credit should read LULU MURILLO/AFP/Getty Images)
Fire engines are seen near the wreckage of a plane (out of frame) that crashed with 97 passengers and four crew on board on take off at the airport of Durango, in northern Mexico, on July 31, 2018. - Dozens of people were injured as an airliner crashed on takeoff during a heavy hail storm in northern Mexico, engulfing the plane in flames, Aeromexico airline and passengers said Tuesday. (Photo by Kevin ALCANTAR / KEVIN ALCANTAR DRONES DURANGO / AFP) (Photo credit should read KEVIN ALCANTAR/AFP/Getty Images)
Ambulances are seen at the airport of Durango, in northern Mexico, after a plane carrying 97 passengers and four crew crashed on take off near the city's airport on July 31, 2018. - Dozens of people were injured as an airliner crashed on takeoff during a heavy hail storm in northern Mexico, engulfing the plane in flames, Aeromexico airline and passengers said Tuesday. (Photo by LULU MURILLO / AFP) (Photo credit should read LULU MURILLO/AFP/Getty Images)
Passengers queue at the airport of Durango, in northern Mexico, after a plane carrying 97 passengers and four crew crashed during take off on July 31, 2018. - Dozens of people were injured as an airliner crashed on takeoff during a heavy hail storm in northern Mexico, engulfing the plane in flames, Aeromexico airline and passengers said Tuesday. (Photo by LULU MURILLO / AFP) (Photo credit should read LULU MURILLO/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Picture showing the wreckage of a plane (L) that crashed with 97 passengers and four crew on board on take off at the airport of Durango, in northern Mexico, on July 31, 2018. - Dozens of people were injured as an airliner crashed on takeoff during a heavy hail storm in northern Mexico, engulfing the plane in flames, Aeromexico airline and passengers said Tuesday. (Photo by Kevin ALCANTAR / KEVIN ALCANTAR DRONES DURANGO / AFP) (Photo credit should read KEVIN ALCANTAR/AFP/Getty Images)
A policeman stands guard at the airport of Durango, in northern Mexico, after a plane carrying 97 passengers and four crew crashed on take off near the city's airport on July 31, 2018. - Dozens of people were injured as an airliner crashed on takeoff during a heavy hail storm in northern Mexico, engulfing the plane in flames, Aeromexico airline and passengers said Tuesday. (Photo by Lulu MURILLO / AFP) (Photo credit should read LULU MURILLO/AFP/Getty Images)
Ambulances are seen at the airport of Durango, in northern Mexico, after a plane carrying 97 passengers and four crew crashed on take off near the city's airport on July 31, 2018. - Dozens of people were injured as an airliner crashed on takeoff during a heavy hail storm in northern Mexico, engulfing the plane in flames, Aeromexico airline and passengers said Tuesday. (Photo by LULU MURILLO / AFP) (Photo credit should read LULU MURILLO/AFP/Getty Images)
Picture showing the wreckage of a plane (C) that crashed with 97 passengers and four crew on board on take off at the airport of Durango, in northern Mexico, on July 31, 2018. - Dozens of people were injured as an airliner crashed on takeoff during a heavy hail storm in northern Mexico, engulfing the plane in flames, Aeromexico airline and passengers said Tuesday. (Photo by Kevin ALCANTAR / KEVIN ALCANTAR DRONES DURANGO / AFP) (Photo credit should read KEVIN ALCANTAR/AFP/Getty Images)
Picture released by Contacto Hoy showing an injured man walking behind an ambulance at the airport of Durango, in northern Mexico, after a plane carrying 97 passengers and four crew crashed during take off on July 31, 2018. - Dozens of people were injured as an airliner crashed on takeoff during a heavy hail storm in northern Mexico, engulfing the plane in flames, Aeromexico airline and passengers said Tuesday. (Photo by STR / CONTACTO HOY / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO / CONTACTO HOY' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
An ambulance is een at the airport of Durango, in northern Mexico, after a plane carrying 97 passengers and four crew crashed on take off near the city's airport on July 31, 2018. - Dozens of people were injured as an airliner crashed on takeoff during a heavy hail storm in northern Mexico, engulfing the plane in flames, Aeromexico airline and passengers said Tuesday. (Photo by Lulu MURILLO / AFP) (Photo credit should read LULU MURILLO/AFP/Getty Images)
Picture released by Contacto Hoy showing a man being rushed into a vehicle at the airport of Durango, in northern Mexico, after a plane carrying 97 passengers and four crew crashed during take off on July 31, 2018. - Dozens of people were injured as an airliner crashed on takeoff during a heavy hail storm in northern Mexico, engulfing the plane in flames, Aeromexico airline and passengers said Tuesday. (Photo by STR / CONTACTO HOY / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO / CONTACTO HOY' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
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Commercial aircraft carry a cockpit voice recorder and a flight data recorder, commonly known as "black boxes," which can contain crucial details of the last minutes of a flight before an accident.

Video purportedly of the crash recorded from a plane window showed a dark sky and fog and the ground still visible moments before a thud and shrieking passengers were heard.

Reuters could not independently verify the video.

"The impact was very strong. We wanted to think it was a lightening strike," said Chicago resident and passenger Lorenzo Nunez. "It was terrible, absolutely terrible." Nunez said he had been visiting family in Durango.

A time-lapse video posted by Webcams of Mexico, filmed during the hour before the crash, showed dark clouds and fog or rain moving in.

Officials said it was too early to say what caused the crash of flight number 2431.

Aeromexico said in a Wednesday morning Twitter post that 64 people had been released from hospitals.

Two people were more seriously injured, including the pilot and a minor, the state health department said.

Fonseca told broadcaster ADN40 that his team began working at the crash site around 7 a.m. local time (1200 GMT), along with representatives of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Representatives of Embraer SA and the maker of the plane's engines, General Electric Co, were also assisting, Fonseca said.

It can take safety investigators months to piece together the complex chain of events leading to an accident.

Determining the cause of the Durango crash may be made easier by the location of the crash, which should allow easy access to evidence, such as the retrieved flight recorders, as well as interviews with the crew and other survivors.

Under international rules, Mexico will lead the investigation with support from Brazil, where the Embraer jet was designed and built, and from the United States, where General Electric Co made the CF34-10E engines.

Aeromexico leased the 10-year-old aircraft involved in Tuesday's incident from Republic Airlines in the United States in 2014, according to data on Planespotters.net. A spokesman for Republic Airlines said on Wednesday that the company briefly leased the plane to Aeromexico, but the aircraft was sold to a third party in 2015. The airline did not give the name of the third party.

(Additional reporting by David Alire Garcia, Daina Beth Solomon and Julia Love in Mexico City, Tim Hepher in Paris and Tracy Rucinski in Chicago; Writing by Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Toni Reinhold)

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