French to head A330 inquiry as search turns up more debris

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French investigators are to lead the inquiry into the disappearance of the Air France Airbus A330 in the South Atlantic, as the search effort turns up further sightings of debris in the ocean.

Aircraft from the Brazilian Air Force, while covering a 10,000km² search area, have seen "scattered patches" of oil stretching across a distance of about 5km, some 700km northeast of the Fernando de Noronha islands.

The search teams have also located "white pieces" of debris, as well as wires and seats. While the air force has not issued a formal confirmation that the items are from the missing A330, defence minister Nelson Jobim has expressed his own conviction, as a result of the findings, that the aircraft has crashed.

"There is no need to assume that the tide has assembled 5km of material brought by the sea," says Jobim.

Aircraft including three Lockheed C-130s and an Embraer R-99 remote-sensing jet have continued searching overnight.

Under ICAO practices, the accident investigation is automatically designated to the state of the aircraft's registry - in this case, France - in cases where the location of the accident cannot definitely be determined.

Brazil's defence ministry has confirmed that French agency Bureau d'Enquetes et d'Analyses (BEA) is to head the inquiry.

Jobim says the debris is out of the range of helicopters and will be collected and transported by vessels, first to Fernando de Noronha and then to Recife. He adds that there is "no deadline" for ending the search.

Air France flight AF447 had been operating from Rio de Janeiro to Paris Charles de Gaulle when contact with the jet was lost over the South Atlantic on 1 June.

 

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