BOSTON (CBS) – A 30-year-old plane crash mystery is a step closer to being solved, thanks to two adventurous and tenacious local men.

Eastern Airlines Flight 980 went down on New Year’s Day, 1985 on a mountain in Bolivia, and no one knows why.

The two buddies from Somerville decided to try and change that. Dan Futrell and Isaac Stoner were all smiles Wednesday morning, because for a long time they doubted this day would ever come. “We have the black box in the back of the car wrapped in Bolivian newspapers in a box that says ‘live fish’ in Spanish,” Isaac told us.

Last June the pair climbed the Bolivian mountain where the plane crashed 31 years ago killing 29 people. They had read about the unsolved mystery and decided to take a shot, even though earlier searchers had come up empty.

Not this time. “We found human remains. Gave them a proper burial and found a billion other plane parts, some of which are orange. Looks a lot like a smashed up black box,” Isaac says in a cell phone video taken at the search site.

Isaac Stoner and Dan Futrell with plane debris (Courtesy photo)

Isaac Stoner and Dan Futrell with plane debris (Courtesy photo)

They also found magnetic tape, audio tape that could shed light on why the plane crashed. They think it came from the cockpit voice recorder. WBZ-TV’s Katie Brace first brought us the story of that discovery.

“I didn’t think we’d get here based on how long it’s taken and the bureaucracy that’s been in the way,” Isaac says.

That’s because when they contacted U.S. authorities about their find they hit a wall. “They said great, nice job guys, we can’t touch it. This belongs to the Bolivians. We advise you to send the black box back to them,” Isaac explains.

Instead they spent the next seven months asking Bolivian authorities to allow their American counterparts to examine the debris. Their diplomacy worked and today the National Transportation Safety Board picked up the box.

“I’m just going to take it to the lab, and we’ll take a look at it and see what we’ve got,” says the NTSB’s Bill English.

“It feels good today to hand it over to somebody else. The ball, the box is in somebody else’s court,” Dan says.

What started as an adventure for Dan and Isaac has now become a mission, to provide answers to the families who lost loved ones in the plane crash all those years ago. The NTSB says they should know if they can get information off the tape in a couple of months.

Comments (3)
  1. Who said a Stoner couldn’t be productive?

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