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Probe begins after LATAM Airlines incident leaves dozens injured

New Zealand’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) announced on Tuesday it was seizing the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder of Chilean LATAM Airlines Boeing 787 aircraft after a major incident a day earlier that left more than 50 people injured.

On Monday, the airline and passengers aboard the Sydney-Auckland flight said the plane with 263 passengers and nine crew members dropped abruptly midair.

“My neighbor, who was in the seat two over from me, there was a gap between us. As soon as I woke, I looked and he was on the ceiling and I thought I was dreaming,” Brian Adam Jokat, a Canadian citizen residing in the U.K. who was traveling on the plane, said on Tuesday.

Photos taken by Jokat after the incident showed damage sustained to the ceiling of the airplane, where he said fellow passengers had hit it.

The New Zealand accident investigator said Chilean authorities had confirmed they had opened a probe into the flight, and it was assisting with their inquiries.

A spokesperson for TAIC said that because the incident occurred in international airspace, the Chilean accident investigation authority Direccion General de Aeronautica Civil (DGAC) opened an inquiry.

LATAM is based in Chile and the flight was due to continue to Santiago after stopping in Auckland.

“TAIC is in the process of gathering evidence relevant to the inquiry, including seizing the cockpit voice and flight data recorders,” the New Zealand agency said, referring to the so-called “black boxes” that will provide more information on the flight’s trajectory and communications between pilots.

DGAC said in a statement it was working with TAIC on the investigation.

LATAM did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it had given the black boxes to TAIC. The airline said earlier on Tuesday it would assist the relevant authorities in investigating the “strong shake” during the flight.

The cause of the apparent sudden change in the trajectory of the flight is currently unexplained. Safety experts say most airplane accidents are caused by a cocktail of factors that need to be thoroughly investigated.

New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement it would also assist in the investigation if required.

There has been renewed debate over the length of cockpit recordings in the aviation industry since it was revealed voice recorder data on the Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 jet that lost a panel midflight in January was overwritten.

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