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Data Can Be Retrieved From Airline Passenger Cell Phones
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Story By: Larry Stine

 

 

 
 
 
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  Originally Published on: 3/26/2014

What if the passengers of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 managed to send a final message? If and when the plane is found, forensic experts say personal cellphones and electronics may be the key to solving one of the biggest aviation mysteries in history. Ted Rowlands has the story. Paul Weeks left his wife and two sons at home in Australia to start a new job and boarded Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Now, his family and others are left wondering if their loved ones tried to send a message before the plane went missing. With so many questions still unanswered, texts and e-mails could provide crucial details about what happened to Flight 370. All of that information could possibly still be retrieved. "Absolutely I'm sure there's text messages, I'm sure there's drafts of e-mails, I'm sure there's video testimonials that people made," says Chad Gough of 4Discovery. Chad Gough is a partner at 4Discovery, a computer forensics company in Chicago. He says even after several weeks or even months in the ocean, unsent texts, e-mails and videos can be retrieved from electronic devices. "It's a matter of finding the devices, determining what type of damage that was associated with them and handling them properly," Gough says. Handling them properly is the key. Just like retrieving a flight data recorder, a cell phone or computer would have to be kept in water until it's ready to be analyzed. Even if a device has been smashed, as long as the data cards are intact, the information is still there. "It's getting them out of the saltwater but actually keeping them wet and putting them in special solution that would dissolve the minerals that are in there, dissolve the salt, and clean off the components," Gough says. Finding the devices will likely be the most difficult part of the equation. It took two years to locate the flight recorders off the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean from Air France Flight 447, which crashed in 2009, no cell phones were recovered. But if Flight 370 wreckage is found over the next few months, passenger texts, e-mails and videos could possibly help solve the mystery of what happened onboard, while also providing some grieving families a final message from a loved one.

   
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