Search team recovers last body from Rio-Paris wreck

PARIS, June 7 (Reuters) – A French search team has retrieved all salvageable bodies from the sunken wreckage of an Air France airliner which crashed in the sea off Brazil two years ago, victims’ families said on Tuesday.

An official representing the families said the remains of 104 victims of the Air France flight A447 crash had now been recovered and the search vessel was headed to France for investigators to work on identifying them.

Each body had to be painstakingly hauled up from a depth of some 3,900 metres (12,800 feet). The first bodies, brought up in early May, were still strapped into their airline seats.

Philippe Vinogradoff, an official appointed by the French government as liaison for the victims’ relatives, said the last body had been retrieved on June 3.

“All the bodies it was deemed could be recovered … have been brought to the surface,” he said in a statement, adding that the search team had prepared a commemorative plaque to leave with the sunken wreckage before departing.

All 228 passengers and crew aboard died when flight A447 plunged into the Atlantic Ocean after taking off from Rio de Janeiro on June 1, 2009. In the days after the crash, rescuers recovered about 50 bodies floating in the sea but the main wreckage was only found this year after extensive searches.

In what has been an emotional few weeks for the families, data recovered from the flight recorders late in May showed the aircraft plunged out of control for four minutes before crashing into the ocean. The revelations have raised questions over how the crew handled what appeared to be a “stall alarm” emergency.

The black boxes from the Airbus A330 airliner showed the pilot was away from the cockpit, and a 32-year-old junior pilot pulled the plane’s nose up as the aircraft became unstable, generating an audible stall warning.

The French military police force in charge of the recovery operation believes the bodies can still be identified, despite having spent two years in the depths of the ocean. (Reporting by Gerard Bon; Writing by Catherine Bremer)