PARIS The body of one of the 228 victims of the Air France Rio-Paris flight that crashed into the ocean off Brazil in 2009 was painstakingly lifted to the surface on Thursday from a depth of 3,900 metres (12,800 feet).
The body -- preserved by high pressure and low temperatures as it lay in the submerged wreckage for nearly two years -- was still belted to an airline seat as French investigators brought it aboard their search vessel off Brazil's northeast coast from a robot submarine, a spokesman for the operation said.
It was the first attempt by the French search party, which recently recovered the two "black box" voice and data recorders from the wreckage, to bring up human remains from the seabed.
"We'd been trying to bring it up since yesterday. It took a long time," said the spokesman, based at the national police headquarters in Paris.
"It's difficult because the bodies are well preserved on the seabed with the pressure and the temperature, but bringing them up through warmer water causes decomposition."
The search party located the wreckage of the Airbus 330 a month ago after nearly two years of scouring the seabed.
Investigators and relatives of the victims hope the flight recorders will explain what caused the airliner to plunge into the sea when it hit storms following its take-off from Rio de Janeiro in June 2009, killing all 228 passengers and crew.
The French Interior Ministry said in a statement that investigators on board the search vessel had taken DNA samples from the body, which would be sent back to France along with the two black boxes and used to try and identify the victim.
Theories about the cause of the disaster have focused on the possible icing up of the aircraft's speed sensors, which seemed to give inconsistent readings before communication was lost.
(Editing by Kevin Liffey)