Air France crash site found by Brazil, search for bodies to start Wednesday
Brazilian search and rescue personnel say they have spotted an aircraft seat, an orange ball and signs of oil on the surface of the ocean 650 kilometres from the Island of Fernando de Noronha in what is confirmed to be the first sighting of remains of missing Air France flight AF 447.
Colonel Antonio Jorge Amaral, vice head of the Center for Aeronautics Commission said an airplane seat, an orange ball, small white parts and a drum as well as traces of oil and kerosene were spotted, according to Agencia Brasil. A Brazil Air Force C130 plane found the wreckage of the missing flight.
Amaral pointed out that the wreckage was only found, but not collected, since Brazilian Navy vessels have not reached the suspected crash site 650 km north of Fernando de Noronha. It is expected search vessels will reach the location on Wednesday.
Brazilian officials said if bodies are found they will transported by ships to the Island of Fernando Noronha and then airlifted.
France, which has been repeatedly targeted by terrorists, did not rule out the catastrophic crash could have been an act of terrorism. However, French authorities also said the plane could have run into the “perfect storm.”
Earlier, reports said some passengers fearing the worst aboard the doomed Air France Airbus A330 aircraft sent out text messages from their cell phones to their loved ones. The Portugues Jornal de Noticias reported some passengers sent text messages such as “I love you.”
“Some relatives and friends of victims have received that message, by phone, with phrases like ‘I love you’ or ‘I’m afraid’, and even telephone calls warning that something wrong was happening and feared the worst,” said the chairman of Union of Airline, Ronaldo Jenkins in Rio, according to Jornal de Noticias.
There is still no word on whether a claim by a TAM airline pilot that he had seen fires burning over the Atlantic route of the missing flight is accurate.
Agencia Brasil quoted Air Force spokesperson Col. Jorge Amaral saying a commercial pilot saw fires burning across a section of the ocean over which he flew. Amaral has not said whether the floating seat and parts that were found were in the same area the TAM pilot had reported fires burning.
AF447 went down after going through a massive thunderstorm at high altitude . All electronic systems aboard the aircraft appeared to have failed simultaneously. Air France also said they received an electronic signal suggesting sudden loss of cabin pressure.
The aircraft was scheduled to land at Charles De Gaulle International Airport at 09:15 GMT but was already several hours overdue when Air France announced it had lost the aircraft.
“Air France regrets to announce the disappearance of flight AF 447 after departing Rio de Janeiro – (for) Paris-Charles de Gaulle, expected arrival this morning at 11.10 am local, as just announced to the press the Director General of Air France, Pierre-Henri Gourgeon,” Air France said in a statement issued in Paris.
“The aircraft went through a thunderstorm with strong turbulence at 2 am (universal time) or 4:00 GMT. An automated message was received at 2:14 (4:14 GMT) indicating a failure of electrical system in a remote area of the coast,” said the statement.
“All civilian air traffic control Brazilian, African, Spanish and French have tried in vain to make contact with the flight AF447. The French military air traffic control tried to detect the aircraft without success,” said the statement issued in Paris.
Air France said there were 216 passengers on board. 126 men, 82 women, 7 children and a baby. The crew numbered 12 with 3 in a training program.
The captain had 11 000 hours of flying experience and already completed 1,700 hours on Airbus A330/A340. The two co-pilots had 3,000 flying hours to their credit, Air France said.
The aircraft had flown a total of 18,870 hours and was put into service on 18 April 2005.
The last total maintenance was carried out on 16 April 2009.
Brazilian Air Force search and rescue teams were combing a large area 186 nautical miles off the coast where the aircraft was last thought to be when it disappeared from radar.
A hot line for relatives has been set up. Journalists are asked to not call this line.
Air France extended its condolences to relatives of those on board and offered psychological counseling at Charles de Gaulle Airport. More than 15 physicians and 100 volunteers are working to help in Paris and Rio.
“A hotline is open at 0800 800 812 for France, 0800 881 20 20 for Brazil and + 33 1 57 02 10 55 abroad.”