Rio-Paris crash victims' bodies return to France
The last salvaged bodies and wreckage from the Air France flight that crashed into the Atlantic in 2009 arrived by boat in a French harbour on Thursday.
Back from a months-long mission dredging the depths of the ocean, the Ile-de-Sein salvage ship pulled into Bayonne harbour in southwestern France at dawn in the rain and fog.
Authorities said it was carrying four containers -- three with wreckage from the Airbus 330 plane and the last with remains of 104 of the 228 people killed in the crash, dredged from thousands of metres (feet) under the sea.
Authorities closed off the harbour to onlookers out of respect for the victims' families. Officials said a short ceremony was planned when the bodies were unloaded.
The operation was however delayed for over four hours after the crane being used for the unloading broke down and the port suffered a power cut.
The BEA aviation authority investigating the crash said the human remains will be transferred to a forensic mortuary for examination, and the plane wreckage to a hangar.
Police authorities said the Medical-Legal Institute in Paris would carry out dental and DNA tests to establish victims' identities.
Once identities are confirmed, the remains will be handed over to families for burial, police said in a statement.
Rescue workers recovered 50 bodies in the days immediately after the crash. More than 70 could not be retrieved in the two years of searching.
The plane crashed en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris on June 1, 2009. It took investigators until last month to salvage the black-box flight recorders from the wreck on the ocean bed.
According to information from the flight data recorders, released earlier by the BEA, the pilots saw conflicting speeds on their instruments as the plane stalled and fell into the sea.
The BEA is due to deliver a report in July on the causes of the crash.
© 2011 AFP