Brazil, France deny rift over jet disaster probe

18th June 2009, Comments 0 comments

Brazilian and French officials denied that a rift had opened between their teams, as the search for answers to the disaster continued.

Brasilia – Brazilian and French officials on Wednesday denied that a rift had opened between their teams examining bodies recovered from an Air France jet that plunged into the Atlantic, as the search for answers to the disaster continued.

A spokesman for the regional security office in the northeast Brazilian city of Recife, where autopsies on 49 of the 50 bodies recovered so far were being carried out, said a lack of coordination over procedures seemed to have generated a misunderstanding.

Early Wednesday, Paul-Louis Arslanian, director of the Investigation and Analysis Bureau (BEA), the French body in charge of the technical side of the inquiry, told reporters in Paris he was "not happy" that a BEA medical expert had not been allowed to take part in the postmortem examinations carried out in Brazil.

But the Recife security spokesman said the BEA expert had not been included on a French embassy list of four French investigators who had already been given "full access to the autopsy room."

He said: "Once we receive the documentation from the embassy, he will have full access to the investigations. But the local authorities hadn't received any notification about him."

The security office issued a statement saying "the participation of any French official in the work being carried out in the morgue has to be secured through diplomatic channels."

The office said French police officers had also been cleared for the administrative section which handled Brazil's reports into the disaster.

A Brazilian police spokesman and a French diplomat in Recife speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity confirmed that four French investigators had been accredited for the autopsies.

"They are participating in the autopsy work as observers," the diplomat said.

"There is very close cooperation with the Brazilian team. In truth, they are working together," he said.

Meanwhile French and Brazilian navy ships, backed by more than a dozen aircraft, were Wednesday continuing to scour waters 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) off Brazil's coast for any more remains from Air France flight AF 447.

Authorities are to evaluate late this week whether to continue the operation.

A French nuclear submarine and two vessels equipped with underwater listening devices are also trying to pick up the homing beacons of the plane's black boxes.

The Airbus A330 came down on 1 June as it was flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. The reason for the disaster is not known.

All 228 people on board are presumed dead, and 50 bodies have so far been recovered, along with the plane's tail fin and hundreds of other parts and pieces.

Arslanian warned it was "virtually certain that we will not recover the entire aircraft.

"We are doing all we can to recover the flight recorders and bodies, and we cannot say today what we will succeed in doing," he said.

The goal of the search and investigation "is to understand what happened," he said, adding: "Considering all the work that has been done and all we have at our disposal, I think we may be getting a bit closer to our goal."

He declined to detail leads being followed up by his 60-member team of investigators.

He also lashed out at press "speculation," including suggestions that defective speed probes could have played a role in the disaster.

"For now, we cannot say, and no one can say what happened. It is much too soon to go imagining scenarios in one direction or another," he insisted.

Theories about the defective probes, called pitots, surfaced after it emerged that a series of data alerts sent automatically by the plane in its final minutes showed they were giving incorrect readings.

Aviation experts say conflicting airspeed data can cause the autopilot to shut down and in extreme cases lead the plane to stall or fly dangerously fast, possibly causing a high-altitude breakup.

Air France itself had initially suggested that lightning could have caused the disaster, though experts later said that was very unlikely.

The BEA, Airbus and Air France have since insisted no link has been proven between the speed monitors and the crash -- although Air France upgraded all sensors on its long-haul fleet after protests from pilots.

AFP / Expatica

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