RECIFE, Brazil – Search ships methodically worked through a “sea of debris” from a doomed Air France jet Sunday, recovering 15 more bodies near the spot where the Airbus A330 is believed to have gone down a week ago.
Two bodies were recovered Saturday, and Brazilian and French ships picked up 15 more Sunday after pilots participating in a grid search reported additional sightings. The bodies have been found in an area about 45 miles from where the jet sent out messages signaling electrical failures and loss of cabin pressure.
“We’re navigating through a sea of debris,” Brazilian Navy Capt. Giucemar Tabosa Cardoso said.
Brazil’s military was not releasing detailed information about bodies or debris that have been spotted from the air but not taken aboard ships, after sea trash was mistaken last week for a cargo pallet from the plane, prompting criticism.
Flight 447 disappeared and likely broke up in midair in turbulent weather May 31 during a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris with 228 people aboard – all now presumed dead.
The investigation is increasingly focused on whether external instruments on the Airbus A330 may have iced over, confusing speed sensors and leading computers to set the plane’s speed too fast or slow – a potentially deadly mistake.
The French agency investigating the disaster said airspeed instruments on the plane had not been replaced as the maker had recommended, but cautioned that it was too early to draw conclusions about what role that may have played in the crash.
The agency, BEA, said the plane received inconsistent airspeed readings from different instruments as it struggled in a massive thunderstorm.
France is leading the investigation into the cause of the crash, and will try to recover the plane’s black-box data and voice recorders, which could reveal why the jet crashed. Brazilian officials are focusing solely on the recovery of victims and plane wreckage.
In Brazil, Air Force Col. Henry Munhoz said nine bodies have been recovered by Brazilian authorities: four men, four women and one that was impossible to identify by gender. He said he did not have information about the genders of the eight bodies recovered by French military helicopters that were transferred to a French ship.
The search is focusing on a zone of several hundred square miles roughly 400 miles northeast of the Fernando de Noronha islands off Brazil’s northern coast.
Authorities also announced that searchers spotted two airplane seats and debris with Air France’s logo, and recovered dozens of structural components from the plane. They had already recovered jet wing fragments.
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