BOGOTA, Colombia – Brazilian officials Friday retracted assertions that debris spotted in the Atlantic Ocean was wreckage of Air France Flight 447, and experts warned that the possibility of locating debris and determining the cause of the crash was fading.
The Brazilian air force said debris picked up Thursday was not that of the Air France Airbus A330. Also, officials said a fuel slick they previously said was caused by the ditched airliner might have come from a ship.
The Rio de Janeiro-to-Paris flight disappeared after flying into turbulence 400 miles off Brazil’s northeastern coast and is believed to have crashed, killing all 228 people aboard. The accident’s cause remains a mystery.
The pilots sent no verbal alerts, and the only signs of distress were a burst of messages sent automatically by the plane. The “black box” and voice data recorders that may provide clues are thought to be thousands of feet below the surface on the ocean floor.
As of Friday evening, ships and airplanes combing a 4,000-square-mile area of the Atlantic had recovered no debris, he said.
Brazilian air force spokesman Ramon Borges Cardoso said a big fragment thought to be part of the airplane was in fact a wooden pallet and “something we consider as trash.”
Meanwhile, the Brazilian government said the air force was flying family members of some victims to Recife on Brazil’s northeastern coast to await results of the investigation.
Experts have theorized that the pilots, who had thousands of hours of combined flying time in Airbus jets, might have flown into the disturbance at the wrong speed, possibly because of an instrument malfunction.