Search ships methodically worked through debris from a doomed Air France jet, recovering 15 more bodies near the spot where the Airbus A330 is believed to have gone down a week ago.
Two bodies were recovered on Saturday, and Brazilian and French ships picked up the others yesterday after pilots participating in a grid search reported additional sightings.
The bodies have been found in an area about 45 miles from where the jet sent out messages signalling electrical failures and loss of cabin pressure.
“We’re navigating through a sea of debris,” Brazilian Navy Captain Giucemar Tabosa Cardoso said.
Brazil’s military was not releasing detailed information about bodies or debris that have been spotted from the air but not taken aboard ships, after it was criticised last week for mistakenly identifying sea trash as a cargo pallet from the plane.
Flight 447 disappeared and likely broke up in midair in turbulent weather on May 31 during a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris with 228 people aboard – all now presumed dead.
The investigation is increasingly focused on whether external instruments on the Airbus A330 may have iced over, confusing speed sensors and leading computers to set the plane’s speed too fast or slow – a potentially deadly mistake.
The French agency investigating the disaster said airspeed instruments on the plane had not been replaced as the maker had recommended, but cautioned that it was too early to draw conclusions about what role that may have played in the crash.
The agency, BEA, said the plane received inconsistent airspeed readings from different instruments as it struggled in a massive thunderstorm.
France is leading the investigation into the cause and will try to recover the plane’s black box data and voice recorders, which could reveal why the jet crashed. Brazilian officials are focusing solely on the recovery of victims and plane wreckage.
In Brazil, Air Force Colonel Henry Munhoz said nine bodies have been recovered by Brazilian authorities: four men, four women and one that was impossible to identify by gender.
He said he did not have information about the genders of the eight bodies recovered by French military helicopters that were transferred to a French ship.
The search is focusing on several hundred square miles roughly 400 miles northeast of the Fernando de Noronha islands off Brazil’s northern coast – where Air France Flight 447 emitted its last signals.