• Memory units extracted for study from battered black boxes
  • Devices need drying in special ovens after being soaked by sea

Egyptian investigators are preparing to test the flight recorder memory units from the EgyptAir plane that crashed in the Mediterranean Sea last month, moving a step closer to finding the cause of the accident that killed all 66 people on board.

Examinations began Saturday for parts of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders of the Airbus Group SE A320, the Civil Aviation Ministry said in an e-mailed statement on Sunday. The memory units will be dried in special ovens in preparation for further study, according to the statement.

Searchers who recovered the so-called black boxes from the seabed last week said the units had sustained damage. The ministry’s statement didn’t make clear how much, if any, damage was caused to the memory units.

Investigators were able to extract the memory units from both devices, the ministry said, and plan to download the information once the drying is completed. The memory units are considered the most critical part of the device in helping to determine what may have happened to Flight MS804 before it vanished from radar screens on May 19 en route to Cairo from Paris.

The recovery of the two devices will help a probe that had been stymied for weeks as authorities searched a wide swath of the ocean for the aircraft. The work was hampered by the depth of the water, with wreckage more than 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) below the surface.

Egyptian authorities called in outside help, drafting the search vessel John Lethbridge for the effort. The vessel is continuing to map the area of the crash site.

The Civil Aviation Ministry said representatives from France and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board will attend the examination of the black boxes.

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