Air France Rio crash: Remains returned after two years

Eithne Walls
Image caption Eithne Walls, 28, was a doctor and former Riverdance performer

The remains of 104 of the 228 people killed when an Air France jet crashed into the Atlantic in 2009 have arrived in Paris for identification.

County Down doctor Eithne Walls was among those who died in the disaster. Her body has never been recovered.

Her family must now wait to hear if her remains are amongst the 104 found at the scene during recent searches.

A ship bearing the bodies from the ocean bed docked in the south-western port of Bayonne on Friday morning.

Three other boats with containers carrying the wreckage of the plane were also brought ashore. The harbour was closed off by the authorities out of respect for bereaved families and friends.

A brief ceremony was expected to be held in the port before the bodies were removed to Paris for DNA identification, while the containers containing wreckage were sent to the city of Toulouse for analysis.

The identification process is likely to be lengthy as investigators will have to collect information on each victim from when they were alive, to compare it to evidence retrieved from their dead bodies.

Divided

Ms Walls, 28, was onboard Flight AF 447 from Rio de Janerio to Paris on 1 June 2009 along with two of her friends, Aisling Butler, from County Tipperary, and Jane Deasy from Dublin.

Fifty bodies, including Ms Deasy's, were found just after the crash.

It took up to two months to idenify some of the victims.

The remains of 104 people, which arrived in France on Friday, have been recovered since April. A further 74 remain unsalvaged.

The issue of recovering the bodies has continued to divide victims' families associations in France and Brazil, as some would have preferred to leave their relations in their sea graves.

The Airbus 330 plane stalled and fell out of the sky in three-and-a-half minutes, French investigators said in a technical report late last month.

While the causes of the crash are still being investigated, one theory being pursued is that the jet's speed probes failed.

Flight recorder data raised questions over the way the crew handled the plane when the "stall alarm" was sounded.

Air France, however, insists its pilots "demonstrated a totally professional attitude".

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