Latest update: 05/04/2011
- AF 447 crash - Air France - aviation - France
New debris, victims found from Air France flight 447 crash
Underwater search teams have located the bodies of some of the victims and more parts of the Air France plane that crashed in 2009 en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, killing all 228 passengers.
By News Wires (text)
REUTERS - France has located the bodies of some passengers who perished when an Air France plane crashed off Brazil in 2009, as well as wreckage from the aircraft, the government said on Monday.
The bodies and aircraft parts would be brought to the surface in the next few weeks, it said.
Air France flight 447, an Airbus 330-203 plane, plunged into the ocean en route to Paris from Rio de Janeiro in June 2009, killing all 228 passengers and crew on board, after the flight hit stormy weather and vanished.
"Bodies were found. They will be recovered and identified," Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet told a news conference with the transport minister and members of the BEA air accident inquiry office.
The discovery of chunks of the plane's wreckage, in a vast search radius of some 10,000 square kilometres, has raised hopes that the aircraft's black boxes might be within reach.
Finding the "black box" flight recorders would be a priority in the coming weeks, said BEA chief Jean-Paul Troadec, who showed pictures of mangled engines, landing gear and wing parts found on Saturday.
"If they weren't destroyed on impact, there's a chance they might still be readable," he said of the flight recorders.
"We can only be happy that two years after the event there's now the hope we can find an explanation of what happened," said Troadec.
The latest search, the fourth since the crash, is being carried out using a vessel equipped with unmanned submarines. An initial underwater search had also found parts of wreckage and bodies.
The newly discovered debris was in what Troadec described as a relatively limited area measuring approximately 200 metres by 600 metres (656 feet by 1968 feet) in size to the north of the site where wreckage was first located.
The fact that the debris was found concentrated in one area tended to support the theory that the plane may have exploded only when it hit the water, he said.
Transport Minister Thierry Mariani said victims' families would be informed of the findings at a meeting at the end of the week.
Robert Soulas, representing crash victims, said the latest news was a source of satisfaction if hard to take.
"I'm satisfied because we can move on to a technical investigation," he said. "On the other hand, they discovered some bodies and I think it's a very difficult thing for the families of the victims."
The ministers said they could not yet quantify the number of bodies captured on photographs by the unmanned submarines. The French government has launched a tender and will fund recovery operations that would probably last four weeks or so, they said.
The plane disappeared after hitting stormy weather over the Atlantic a few hours into the flight. Speculation about what caused the accident has focused on the possible icing up of the aircraft's speed sensors, which seemed to give inconsistent readings before communication was lost.
An accident report said it was impossible to establish a clear cause without further data held in the missing recorders.