Debris confirms Air France jet crashed in ocean: Brazilian minister
Large amounts of debris found floating in the Atlantic confirm an Air France plane that disappeared while flying from Brazil to Paris crashed into the ocean, Brazil's defence minister said Tuesday.
Nelson Jobim told a news conference that the five-kilometre path of wreckage found earlier in the day is "without a doubt" from the Airbus A330, which was carrying 228 people when it vanished over the Atlantic Ocean after leaving Rio de Janeiro on Sunday night.
There were no signs of any lifeboats, survivors or bodies.
French officials have said there is little chance of finding any survivors. Police are studying passenger lists and preparing to take DNA from passengers' relatives to help identify any retrieved remains.
Among the 216 passengers and 12 crew was Brad Clemes, 49, a Coca-Cola executive who was born and raised in Guelph, Ont., and lived in Belgium.
If there are no survivors, as feared, it would be the world's deadliest commercial airline disaster since Nov. 12, 2001, when an American Airlines jetliner crashed in the New York City borough of Queens during a flight to the Dominican Republic, killing 265 people.
'Race against the clock' to find black boxes
"The search-and-rescue folks are very good about being able to pick up small objects in the water," said John Cox, an airline safety consultant. "They're highly trained for this."
The size of the debris field will give some indication as to whether the airplane struck the water in one piece or broke apart in flight, Cox said.
Aviation experts have said it is unusual there was no human or automatic distress message sent from the plane and that no emergency beacons transmitted.
Finding the plane's flight-data recorder will allow officials to begin to determine what happened, said Doug Moss, an aviation expert who teaches at the University of Southern California.
It is a "race against the clock" to find the plane's two black boxes, which emit signals for up to 30 days, said French Transportation Minister Jean-Louis Borloo Tuesday.
'Succession of extraordinary events'
Officials believe that "there really had to be a succession of extraordinary events to be able to explain this situation," Borloo said.
Air France received an automatic message from Flight 447 signalling an electrical circuit malfunction about four hours into the flight, at 10 p.m. ET on Sunday. The message came shortly after the flight crossed "through a thunderous zone with strong turbulence," Air France officials said.
Some officials have speculated the plane may have been struck by lightning, but aviation experts have said that should not have been enough to bring down the aircraft.
Other potential causes include shifting winds and hail from towering thunderheads, a massive mechanical failure or a combination of other factors.
Meteorologists speculated Tuesday that the aircraft might have faced winds as strong as 160 km/h created from a series of thunderstorms along the flight path.
Pentagon officials told The Associated Press that American authorities have not seen any evidence suggesting terrorism or foul play.
With files from The Associated Press