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17 bodies recovered from Atlantic plane crash site

Video by Rachel MARUSAK


Latest update : 2009-06-08

17 bodies have been recovered from the debris of the Air France 447 jet that disappeared into the Atlantic Ocean nearly a week ago, while investigators probe whether a defective speedometer caused the tragedy.

AFP - Seventeen bodies now have been recovered from the debris of an Air France jet that plunged into the Atlantic nearly a week ago, as investigators probe whether a defective speedometer caused the tragedy.

Fifteen more bodies were snatched from the waves 1,150 kilometers (600 miles) off Brazil's northeastern coast on Sunday, when search teams battled "unfavorable" weather conditions to recover other bodies spotted floating among seats and other plane debris, Brazilian military officials said.

"Dozens of structural components" from the Airbus A330 were also picked up, air force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Henry Munhoz told reporters in Recife, a coastal city in northeastern Brazil.

The latest finds followed the recovery on Saturday of the first two bodies from Air France flight AF 447, which came down early June 1 with 228 people on board. The plane left from Rio de Janeiro to Paris a week ago, on May 31.

The bodies were to be taken by ship to Brazil's Atlantic archipelago of Fernando de Noronha from where they would be flown to Recife for identification, Munhoz said.

On Saturday, the bodies of two men were the first to be recovered by Brazilian navy personnel from the zone located 1,150 kilometers (715 miles) from Recife.

The 15 others were taken from the water on Sunday by teams from a Brazilian frigate and a French navy ship involved in the operation.

Of those 15 bodies, four were men and four were women. The gender of the others had not yet been determined.

"Their state will not be revealed because it's not in the public interest," Brazilian air force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Henry Munhoz said earlier on Sunday.

Police experts arrived on the island to carry out preliminary identification work and collect basic information, such as the state of the bodies and any clothing, according to air force spokesman Jorge Amaral.

Earlier on Sunday Munhoz had said "some 100 objects" had been spotted in the crash zone, including other seats emblazoned with the Air France logo and oxygen masks.

The black boxes from the plane have not yet been found.

A French navy frigate on Sunday joined the search effort. Two French military aircraft were already flying with the 12 Brazilian air force planes at work in the area.

Two French submarines, including one that explored the wreck of the Titanic and another, nuclear powered warship, were also on their way to hunt for the devices, which will stop transmitting their location in three weeks.

With clues still being pieced together over the crash, speculation is focusing on its airspeed monitors.

The doomed jet broadcast a series of 24 automatic error messages as its systems shut down one after the other in its final minutes, and French accident investigators say the cockpit was receiving conflicting speed data.

Following the crash, plane manufacturer Airbus warned pilots to review their procedure to cope with this problem.

Air France said on Saturday it had accelerated plans begun April 27 to replace the monitoring units in its jets after noticing problems with airspeed information on its Airbus A330s and A340s since May last year.

It insisted in a statement that this should not be taken as prejudging the result of the crash investigation.

The device in question is the pitot probe, usually on the leading edge of a wing, which measures the force of the air through which an aircraft passes and thus calculates the speed of the plane.

France's transport minister Dominique Bussereau said it was too early for investigators to say what was the most likely cause of the crash, but confirmed that Airbus jets had experienced problems with speed monitors.

"There have been situations on Airbus planes, and perhaps on others, where these probes ice up in a very wet area, a deep depression, an area of storms, and no longer give the correct speed reading," Bussereau told France's RTL radio.

"It's obvious that if the pilots in the cockpit no longer have the correct speed ... that can lead to two bad consequences for the survival of the plane," he explained.

"Too low a speed, which can cause it to stall, or too high a speed, which can lead to the plane ripping up as it approached the speed of sound, as the outer skin is not designed to resist such speed."

Date created : 2009-06-08