SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Brazilian naval vessels picked up 15 more corpses in the mid-Atlantic on Sunday, providing what military officials say is conclusive proof that a missing Air France Airbus crashed while on its way from Rio de Janeiro to Paris last Sunday night.
The 15 bodies were being taken along with two others fished from the sea on Saturday to Fernando de Noronha, the Brazilian archipelago where much of the search operation is based. They are expected to arrive there Tuesday before being transferred to the city of Recife, where medical and forensics teams are waiting to examine them.
In addition, “hundreds” of other belongings and personal items were located by Brazilian naval teams and are being looked after for delivery to the families, Lt. Col. Henry Munhoz said.Colonel Munhoz said the finds conclusively showed the Air France jet went down a week ago Sunday night, and they hope it will dampen speculation over what exactly happened to the plane.
Focus shifts to plane's sensors
But, for many worldwide, curiosity has yet to abate, and the investigation is now focusing on whether external instruments on the Airbus A330 may have iced over, causing pilots to set the aircraft at a dangerous speed.
Reuters reports on a disagreement between Air France, which said Saturday it was accelerating the replacement of air-speed sensors on all its Airbus long-haul planes, and Airbus on this issue.
Air France said it had begun the switchover of speed sensors five weeks before the crash, but only after disagreeing with Airbus over the planemaker's proposal to carry out tests before replacing them.
An Airbus spokesman declined to comment, and said it could only discuss the investigation with French air authorities.
The head of France's air accident agency, BEA, said Saturday it was too soon to say if problems with the speed sensors, known as pitot tubes, were in any way responsible.
But, as The Monitor reported yesterday, experts warn against jumping to conclusions.
French submarine on its way
The jet's data recorders – or "black boxes" – may hold key data, but they may be nearly four miles deep in the Atlantic.
A French submarine is due to arrive in the area Wednesday to help search for the boxes.
Five Brazilian ships and a French frigate are currently involved in the search operation, along with 12 Brazilian and two French planes.
Although weather conditions were described as “unfavorable for air missions,” the search was continuing Sunday, the military said in a statement. Most of the focus is on the area where the bodies were found, but reconnaissance planes are also flying over adjacent areas in the hope of finding more bodies or debris.
[Editor's note: Story updated Sunday evening with latest information on the number of bodies recovered.]