Bishops Comfort Grieving Families of Crashed Air India Flight

The Catholic Bishop of Mangalore is working to comfort grieving families who lost their loved ones in Saturday's Air India plane crash.

Air India flight IX-812 crashed on Saturday morning while trying to land in Mangalore, India on the way from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The crash killed 158 of the 166 people on board, including nearly 20 members of the Catholic Church in Mangalore.

"I am trying to visit the grieving family members," Bishop Aloysius Paul D'Souza told, noting that the diocese will be preparing a special mass for the deceased "very soon."

D'Souza said his diocese is ready to help the families of those who have perished in whatever way possible, "but first we are trying to ascertain through the parish priests the actual need and then we will respond accordingly," he said.

On Sunday, the Catholic Bishops Conference of India issued a statement on the crash, which they called a "horrifying tragedy" and a "shocking and disturbing" event for the Church in India and for the country.

"Our heartfelt condolences go to the families and relatives of the victims. We earnestly pray for the departed souls of the innocent people who lost their lives in the plane crash," the bishops' conference said, adding that they were "deeply pained at the tragic incident" and share in the "anguish of all those who have suffered."

Meanwhile, investigators are continuing their search for clues about what caused the Air India flight to overshoot the runway at Mangalore airport, although human error has been considered as a strong possibility.

CNN reported that officials have found two key items in their search for answers: the cockpit voice recorder and the digital flight acquisition unit, although others have estimated that it will take months before the real cause of the crash can be determined.

Some airline security regulators have taken the crash as an impetus to speed up efforts in developing technology that can prevent accidents when planes overshoot the runway, which they say is a fairly common occurrence.

A crushable form of concrete designed to slow down planes that go over the runway was introduced by French firm Zodiac several years ago.

The substance, called "EMAS," works much like gravel does to stop runaway trucks on steep roads, and has already been credited with capturing several overrunning planes, including one at New York's John F. Kennedy airport.

Other options being considered include providing ways for pilots to be able to abort and restart the landing process if they sense any problems.

Honeywell Aerospace has developed such a system, which they say would cost around $30,000 to implement, while the typical EMAS system runs anywhere from $5 to $12 million.

"It's an option for airlines to choose," Honeywell Vice-President Carl Esposito told Reuters.

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