PARIS (Reuters) - France has located the bodies of some passengers who perished when an Air France plane crashed off Brazil in 2009, and wreckage from the aircraft, the government said on Monday.
The bodies and wreckage 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.
Transport Minister Thierry Mariani said the “black box” flight recorders had not yet been located and BEA officials said it was impossible to say how useful they would be if they were found, although the BEA chief held out hope the recorders would be found and be of use.
“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 BEA chief Jean-Paul Troadec, who showed pictures of engines, landing gear and wing parts found on Saturday.
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.
Mariani said victims’ families would be informed of the findings at a meeting at the end of the week and no further details would be made public before then.
The discovery of the chunks of the Air France 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.
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. (Reporting by Vicky Buffery and Alexandria Sage; Writing by Brian Love; Editing by Susan Fenton)