x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Autopsies suggest jet broke up in sky

Fractures in the legs, hips and arms of flight 447 victims strongly suggest the plane broke up in the air.

A Brazilian Navy diver stands on a piece of debris of the Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic Ocean.
A Brazilian Navy diver stands on a piece of debris of the Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic Ocean.

SAO PAULO // Autopsies have revealed fractures in the legs, hips and arms of Air France Flight 447 victims, injuries that, along with the large pieces of wreckage pulled from the Atlantic, strongly suggest the plane broke up in the air, experts say. With more than 400 pieces of debris recovered from the ocean's surface, the top French investigator expressed optimism about eventually discovering what brought down the plane. But he also called the search conditions - far from land in very deep water - "one of the worst situations ever known in an accident investigation".

French investigators are beginning to form "an image that is progressively less fuzzy", Paul-Louis Arslanian, who runs the French air accident investigation agency BEA, told a news conference yesterday outside Paris. "We are in a situation that is a bit more favourable than the first days," Mr Arslanian said. "We can say there is a little less uncertainty, so there is a little more optimism ... (but) it is premature for the time being to say what happened." A spokesman for Brazilian medical examiners said yesterday that fractures were found in autopsies on an undisclosed number of the 50 bodies recovered so far.

"Typically, if you see intact bodies and multiple fractures - arm, leg, hip fractures - it's a good indicator of a mid-flight break up," said Frank Ciacco, a former forensic expert at the US National Transportation Safety Board. "Especially if you're seeing large pieces of aircraft as well." "In an in-air break up like we are supposing here, the clothes are just torn away," said Jack Casey, an aviation safety consultant in Washington, DC and a former accident investigator. Mr Casey also said multiple fractures are consistent with a mid-air break-up of the plane, which was cruising at about 34,500 feet (10,500 meters) when it went down.

"Getting ejected into that kind of windstream is like hitting a brick wall - even if they stay in their seats, it is a crushing effect," Mr Casey said. * AP