Air France Rio crash: Remains returned after two years

F-GZCP, the Air France jet which crashed en route from Brazil, in an undated image (photo: AirTeamImages)
Image caption F-GZCP, the Air France jet which crashed, is seen here in an undated image

Remains of 104 of the 228 people killed when an Air France jet crashed into the Atlantic in 2009, leaving no survivors, have arrived in France.

A ship carrying three containers of wreckage and a fourth bearing human remains from the ocean bed docked in the south-western port of Bayonne.

The harbour was closed off by the authorities out of respect for bereaved families and friends.

Fifty bodies were found just after the crash but others remain missing.

Flight AF 447 went down on 1 June 2009 after running into an intense high-altitude thunderstorm, four hours into a flight from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to the French capital Paris.

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 have 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".

Long wait

The main wreckage of the plane was only discovered in April after a search of 10,000 sq km (3,860 sq miles) of sea floor.

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 to be sent to the city of Toulouse for analysis.

An AFP reporter in Bayonne reports that the salvage ship, the Ile-de-Sein, pulled into harbour at dawn in rain and fog.

Those on board the jet came from more than 30 countries, though most were French, Brazilian or German.

The identification process is likely to be lengthy as investigators will have to collect "ante mortem" information on each victim - from when they were alive - to compare it to evidence retrieved from their dead bodies, Reuters news agency reports.

It took around two months to identify the victims retrieved from the surface of the ocean just after the crash.

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