Flight data from a black box recovered from a plane that crashed in March killing 132 people indicates someone in the cockpit intentionally crashed the plane, officials reportedly believe.
The significant claim was made in The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, with the publication citing people familiar with US officials' preliminary assessment.
The Boeing 737-800 heading to the Chinese city of Guangzhou crashed into a mountainside in March, killing all 123 passengers and nine crew members. It was mainland China's deadliest aviation disaster in 28 years.
Video of the aircraft from a nearby location in the seconds prior to the crash appears to show the plane plummeting almost vertically towards the ground.
A Western official told Reuters that the focus is on the actions of the crew after the preliminary investigation did not find any indication of a technical malfunction.
Boeing Co, the maker of the jet, and US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) declined to comment and referred questions to Chinese regulators.
The pilots did not respond to repeated calls from air traffic controllers and nearby planes during the rapid descent, authorities said.
China Eastern could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday but the Wall Street Journal said the airline had said in a statement that no evidence emerged that could determine whether or not there were any problems with the aircraft.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In mid-April, China Eastern resumed use of the 737-800 planes. In a summary of its preliminary crash report last month, Chinese regulators did not point to any technical recommendations on the 737-800, which has been in service since 1997 with a strong safety record, according to experts.
The search for survivors spanned several days, with scores of rescue workers initially unable to find any sign of victims in the hilly terrain of Guangxi where the plane crashed. No sign of life was discovered.
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