With 17 bodies pulled so far from the Atlantic, Brazilian and French military ships have no doubt they've located the wreckage of an Air France flight a week after it disappeared en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. What caused the Airbus A330 to crash with 228 people on board will remain a mystery, unless searchers can locate the plane's black box data and voice recorders, likely buried deep in the middle of the ocean.
Two hi-tech devices from the US Navy that can detect emergency beacons to a depth of 6,100m are being flown to Brazil today with a US Navy team, according to the Pentagon. They will be delivered to two French tugs that will listen for transmissions from the boxes. Bodies recovered yesterday raised the total to 17, after pilots participating in a grid search found 15 corpses in an area about 70km from where the jet sent out messages signalling electrical failures and loss of cabin pressure.
Authorities also announced that searchers spotted two aeroplane seats, debris with Air France's logo, and recovered dozens of structural components from the plane. They said hundreds of personal items believed to be passengers' belongings were plucked from the water. France is leading the investigation into the cause of the crash, while Brazilian officials are focusing solely on the recovery of victims and plane wreckage. There is "no more doubt" that the wreckage is from Air France Flight 447, Brazilian air force Col Henry Munhoz said yesterday. Brazil's military was not releasing further information about other bodies or debris spotted from the air after it was criticised last week for mistakenly identifying sea trash as a cargo pallet from the plane.
Flight 447 disappeared and likely broke up in mid-air in turbulent weather the night of May 31. The search is focusing on a zone of several hundred square kilometres, roughly 640km north-east of the Fernando de Noronha islands off Brazil's northern coast. Brazilian authorities have refused to release the precise co-ordinates of where they are looking. Nine bodies have been recovered by Brazilian authorities: four men, four women and one that was impossible to identify by gender, Mr Munhoz said. He said he did not have information about the genders of the eight bodies recovered by French military helicopters that were transferred to a French ship. Mr Munhoz and Brazilian Navy Capt Giucemar Tabosa Cardoso declined to comment on the condition of the bodies, saying that information would be too emotionally painful for relatives.
Neither would authorities immediately identify hundreds of personal items that have been recovered. Relatives of the victims were devastated by an announcement on Saturday that a laptop computer and briefcase containing a plane ticket had been found. "We don't want to cause them more suffering," Mr Munhoz said. The bodies and plane wreckage were being transported by Brazilian and French ships and should arrive at the Fernando de Noronha islands, where the military has set up a staging post for the search operation, tomorrow. From there, remains and debris will be taken to the northeastern coastal city of Recife for identification.