Thailand is deeply involved in the search, providing skilled manpower that its poorer neighbor lacks.
Thai Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt said the Thai navy initially sent scuba divers but their work was complicated by strong currents, deep water of up to 10 meters (32 feet) and poor visibility in the muddy river. He said navy trawlers were being sent Friday to sweep the river with nets to try to locate the fuselage, along with a Thai forensics team to help identify bodies.
"We think the plane broke into two pieces. The tail of the plane contains the black box," Chadchart said in a telephone interview after meeting with his Lao counterpart in Pakse. "It is believed that many bodies of the passengers are still stuck in the plane, or else they would have surfaced on the river."
The Thai air force said it had sent a C-130 transport plane with specialists and equipment including a large scanner to locate metal objects.
He said a team of Singaporean experts was arriving Friday with equipment to help locate the black box, or flight data recorder, which stores technical data from the flight.
France's accident investigation agency said it sent four investigators to help Laos with the probe into the cause of the crash. It said the team would work with technical advisers from ATR, the French-Italian manufacturer of the aircraft, which has said it delivered the plane to Lao Airlines in March.
Associated Press writers Thanyarat Doksone, Jocelyn Gecker and Chris Blake in Bangkok contributed to this report.
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