400 pieces of debris recovered from jet crash

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The Independent US

Around 400 pieces of debris have been recovered from the Air France plane which crashed into the Atlantic killing all 228 people abroad, French accident investigators said today.

But they added that it was "almost certain" that it would not be possible to recover all parts of the Airbus A330 which was lost on a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in the early hours of 1 June.

Speaking in Paris, investigators said the area being searched was huge, the weather was "not great", the work was very difficult and extremely tiring.

Five Britons and three Irish women were among those who died in the crash which happened after a message was received that the plane was flying into a storm.

After that, a series of automatic electronic messages were sent reporting warnings and system failures. There was no further contact.

Investigators said today that post mortem examinations had been carried out in Brazil by Brazilian authorities on some of the bodies that had been recovered but that French authorities had not received the results.

French air investigation team head Paul-Louis Arslanian said: "It is almost certain that the whole of the plane will not be recovered. We have 400 pieces of debris in our data base from all the different parts of the plane."

He went on: "We are doing our utmost. Conditions are not easy. The surface area (of the search) is huge, the weather is not great, the work is very difficult and we are working day and night. It is extremely tiring. Everyone is doing their very best."

The key to finding out exactly what happened to the flight lies in tracking down the "black box" flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder.

The black boxes emit "pinging" noises for 30 days and investigators today explained that teams in the Atlantic were doing their best to locate the boxes in an area where sea depths were as great as 4,000 metres.

Air France has replaced the air speed sensors on its entire fleet of Airbus A330 and A340 planes following the crash.

There has been speculation that faulty data on the old-type sensors may have caused the June 1 crash.