PARIS/RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - A man celebrating his birthday; a group of workers returning from a vacation award; a woman who had just recovered from a brain injury.
As with any airline disaster, there were stories of cruel coincidences and bright young lives cut short by the crash of Air France flight AF 447, which was confirmed on Tuesday by Brazil’s military.
“My son died on his birthday,” said a tearful Diana Raquel, mother of British-based Brazilian dentist Jose Rommel Amorim, who turned 35 on Sunday and had been visiting his family before catching the Rio de Janeiro-Paris flight.
She was among distraught relatives accommodated by Air France at a hotel in Rio, many of whom expressed anger about a lack of information from authorities since the plane vanished in a storm early on Monday.
Adding to the anguish, they are likely to face a long wait for answers to how the state-of-the-art Airbus A330 was apparently brought down by a storm that aviation experts said was a routine hazard for pilots.
Finding the “black box” flight data and voice recorders that hold clues to why the plane crashed will be difficult because they have likely sunk to the ocean floor at the crash site about 1,200 km (745 miles) northeast of Brazil’s coast.
Aldair Gomes, the father of Marcelo Parente, who was the head of the Rio mayor’s Cabinet office, said he had been holding out hope for his son until Tuesday’s announcement.
“The last bit of hope that we had no longer exists,” he said. “Before, a lot of us were hoping that the plane could have landed on an island or something like that, but no more.
“I just want to find my son’s body so that he can have a dignified burial.”
Among the 216 passengers of 32 nationalities were executives from major companies that have ramped up investments in Brazil in recent years and European tourists returning from its famous beaches as well as seven children and one baby.
A 28-year-old Spaniard, Ana Negra, who had just spent her honeymoon in Brazil, said goodbye to her husband at Rio’s airport after deciding to take a different flight and visit her family in Spain, Brazil’s O Globo newspaper reported. She had changed her flight just days before.
A company that distributes electrical parts in France was hit especially hard. It lost 10 employees who had gone on a short vacation to Brazil as a reward for their strong performance at work. Nine of their spouses also were on board.
“I found out about this on Monday morning. To say it was a shock doesn’t remotely describe the emotion,” Laurent Bouveresse, head of the CGED company, told French television.
Other French companies lost employees, among them tire maker Michelin. It had three staff aboard the jet, including its head of Latin America, Luiz Roberto Anastocio, and a 28-year-old Frenchwoman, Christine Pieraerts.
Her older brother, Michel, said his sister had recently recovered from a stroke.
“We were happy because she had returned to work and had a normal life again. The fates were against her, and us,” he told Le Parisien newspaper.
Three Irish women doctors, who had recently graduated from Trinity College Dublin, were on the plane. One of them, Eithne Walls, 28, was originally a dancer and had spent a year working on the Riverdance show on Broadway before turning to medicine.
“She was very popular and talented member of the troupe,” Julian Erskine, the executive producer of Riverdance, was quoted as saying by the Irish media.
In Italy, officials released the names of 10 Italians who had checked onto the flight. They included three politicians from the northern Trentino region who had flown to Brazil to deliver funds raised in their area to help victims of a 2008 flood.
Writing by Stuart Grudgings; editing by Todd Benson and Xavier Briand