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France opens judicial probe into Air France crash

Video by Karim YAHIAOUI , Sarah DRURY

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-06-06

French investigators say the systems on board Air France flight 447 were giving conflicting readings before it disappeared on Monday in the Atlantic Ocean. France has meanwhile opened a judicial probe into the accident.

France on Friday launched a manslaughter probe to investigate whether anyone was responsible for the crash of an Air France jet that plunged into the Atlantic with 228 people on board, officials said.

 

"Following the disappearance of the Air France Airbus A330 between Rio de Janeiro and Paris, the Paris prosecutor's office has opened a judicial inquiry against unnamed persons on charges of manslaughter," it said in a statement.

 

French judge Sylvie Zimmerman is in charge of the case.

 

French and Brazilian air force jets and navy boats have so far recovered no debris or bodies from the plane that went missing on Monday.

 

False read-outs

 

On Friday, France sent a nuclear sub to hunt the black boxes lost, as Airbus warned pilots about a possible cause of the tragedy.

 

A notice reminding air crews worldwide what to do when speed indicators give conflicting readings was sent to pilots of all Airbus airliners and not just of the A330, the model that crashed Monday, a spokesman said.

 

The alert came as French air safety investigators said automatic messages broadcast by the Rio to Paris flight just before it plunged into the Atlantic on Monday had shown the plane's systems were giving false readings.

 

 

"Airbus overnight sent a reminder to all the companies using its planes on the procedures to follow in the case of inconsistency in speeds measured," a spokesman for the French-based manufacturer told AFP.

 

With AF 477's black box flight recorders still missing, investigators are focusing on signals sent before the jet went down as it flew through a storm en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.

 

The plane has several devices that measure speed but the data sent by them differed, said a spokeswoman from the Office of Inquiries and Analysis (BEA), France's air accident investigation authority.

 

French Defence Minister Herve Morin told reporters in Paris he had not ruled out an terrorist attack on the plane, although he had not heard of any threats or claims of responsibility being made.

 

"I've never ruled out terrorism," he said. "There's no element or evidence trail that would allow us to corroborate that, but the inquiry that is underway has never ruled that out."

 

Nuclear sub

 

Morin also said that a French navy nuclear-powered hunter-killer submarine had been sent to the area, where salvage crews are racing to find the wreckage and bodies of passengers in the Atlantic.

 

"Time is against us," admitted French transport minister Dominique Bussereau. "We must do everything we can to find the flight recorders and certainly enlarge the search zone."

 

Several Brazilian navy vessels and French and Brazilian planes, are scouring waters midway between Brazil and Africa for wreckage, including a seat and what appeared to be a big chunk fuselage, sighted by air force jets.

 

Date created : 2009-06-05

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