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Debris confirmed as missing Air France flight -

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Debris confirmed as missing Air France flight

The World Today - Wednesday, 3 June , 2009 12:22:00

Reporter: Emma Alberici

PETER CAVE: The families of those on board the doomed Air France flight from Rio have been told
that the plane carrying their loved ones has crashed into the Atlantic.

Brazil's Defence Minister said debris found floating in the ocean was, without a doubt, from the
Airbus A330 that went missing almost two days ago after reporting electrical failure.

But the wait continues for an explanation about what caused the plane to fall out of the sky, amid
fears that the flight recorder may never be found.

Europe correspondent Emma Alberici.

EMMA ALBERICI: The area where the plane is thought to have crashed has been narrowed down to a few
square nautical miles between Brazil and the west coast of Africa after the Brazilian air force
spotted debris there over a five kilometre stretch of the Atlantic Ocean.

Brazil's Defence Minister confirmed that the objects seen in the water - including airplane
seating, oil, kerosene and a life vest - belonged to AF 447, which left Rio de Janeiro but never
made it to Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris where it was headed.

At least 14 planes are now searching for the body of the Airbus A330. The United States joined the
search today, launching a navy surveillance plane. France has sent a research vessel that deploys
robots that can work 6,000 metres below the surface.

The ocean floor in the area being searched is up to 7,000 metres deep, which is posing great
challenges for investigators who are in a race against time. The black box flight recorder
containing conversations and data from the planes final moments will only emit a signal for 30
days.

Spokesman for the French Military Commander Christophe Prazuck.

CHRISTOPHE PRAZUCK (translated): For the time being we can't find anything. The weather is pretty
bad; we're in an intra-tropical zone of convergence. There are a lot of squalls, a lot of storms.
The ceiling is sometime limited at 250 metres, which forces planes to fly very low over the water
and therefore to have a limited line of sight, which explains the delay in finding the location of
the crash.

EMMA ALBERICI: Was it a mechanical problem, lightning or a bad storm? Analysts are baffled as to
why this plane got into trouble, while Lufthansa, which flew two jets on the same route within half
an hour of the doomed flight, reported nothing remarkable about the weather.

The French Government has not ruled out the possibility that the plane came down as the result of a
terrorist attack.

For five anxious families in Britain, the wait has been traumatic.

Among those missing is an 11-year-old boy who was travelling alone. He'd spent the half term school
break with his parents in Brazil and was heading back to Bristol where he attended a boarding
school.

Sixty-one-year-old structural engineer Arthur Coakley was also among the 228 people on the flight,
his wife, Patricia Coakley was at her mother's house when her son called.

PATRICIA COAKLEY: And he said, "Oh what flight's daddy on?" I said "Why?" He said, "Oh there's been
a plane crash."

And I went, so literally dropped everything, came home, checked out itinerary on the email and I
thought "Oh no", and then I realised it was his plane.

I think he might not come back but I kept phoning him on his mobile, and he's pretty useless on his
mobile, he hates them. I haven't tried it today, but yesterday it was ringing, so maybe they're not
at the bottom of the sea. That's my hope but I think it's... I think it's maybe fading today.

EMMA ALBERICI: In France, 40 families have maintained a vigil at Charles De Gaulle, wanting to stay
close to the investigation being coordinated at the airport. A team of psychologists led by
Guillaume Denoix de Saint-Marc is caring for them in a nearby hotel.

GUILLAUME DENOIX DE SAINT-MARC: For the moment, they refuse to think, they knew that the event
happened, but they still hope that the person they were waiting for has survived.

EMMA ALBERICI: It's the worst aviation disaster in Air France's 75 year history. It's the first
time an A330 has been involved in a fatal accident.

But a law firm in London representing 30 victims of a previous incident involving the same aircraft
flying for Qantas has issued a statement claiming that it is preparing to sue Airbus because it
suspects that this latest crash might prove that the aircraft could be vulnerable to electrical
interference.

Last October, the Qantas A330 suddenly plunged 200 metres during a flight over Western Australia.
Air accident investigators blamed the rapid descent on a malfunctioning computer.

(Announcement in French Parliament)

There was two minutes of silence in the French National Assembly in respect of those on board
Flight 447.

The international effort to find the aircraft is a search operation not a rescue one. There's been
no sign of life and, after nearly two days since contact with the plane was lost, there's no
expectation that there might be.

This is Emma Alberici reporting for The World Today.