Wednesday, 3 June 2009

No survivors found in wreckage of Air France jet, official says

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (CNN) -- Debris located early Tuesday in the Atlantic Ocean off the northeast coast of Brazil is wreckage from the Air France jet that disappeared Monday, Brazil's Defense Minister Nelson Jobim said.

No survivors have been found, he said.

Jobim made the announcement after meeting with relatives and friends of Brazilians who were among the 228 people aboard Flight 447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, France.

Two debris fields were found about 650 km (400 miles) northeast of the Fernando de Noronha Islands, an archipelago 355 kilometers (220 miles) off the northeast coast of Brazil -- or at latitude 2 north, longitude 30 west, the Ministry of Defense said on its Web site.

One of the fields was 5 km (3 miles) long and that both lie near the flight path between Rio de Janeiro and Paris.

Among the wreckage was an airplane seat, metal debris, an orange float, a drum and an oil spill, the posting said.

Brazilian air force planes spotted the debris field Tuesday morning, but it was not until a French commercial vessel arrived on the scene that the debris' origin was confirmed. The planes searched 10,000 square kilometers (3,861 square miles) of ocean throughout the day and will continue to search for more debris overnight, the Brazilian Air Force Said.

Two Netherlands-flagged vessels were expected to arrive in the area later in the day; a Brazilian navy ship was expected to arrive Wednesday, officials said. Brazilian air force jets were continuing to comb the area for other debris, and a U.S. P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft was assisting as well.
The searchers also want to find the cockpit voice and data recorders, which might shed light on what caused the jet to disappear before any of the three pilots was able to issue a mayday.
"That really is an ominous sign," said former U.S. National Transportation Safety Board Managing Director Peter Goelz. "It means, whatever happened, it happened so quickly that the pilots were not able to radio out. It probably indicates a catastrophic failure at altitude."

He said that meteorologists have been checking weather data over the area "to see if there was some phenomenon that was taking place -- so far, we haven't seen it."

The Airbus A330 encountered heavy turbulence early Monday, about three hours into what was supposed to be an 11-hour flight, according to the airline.

The plane carried 216 passengers -- 126 men, 82 women, seven children and a baby -- and 12 crew members, Air France said.

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