- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 3, 2009

FERNANDO DE NORONHA, Brazil | Brazilian military planes found a three-mile path of wreckage in the Atlantic Ocean, confirming that an Air France jet carrying 228 people crashed in the sea, Defense Minister Nelson Jobim said Tuesday.

Mr. Jobim told reporters in Rio de Janeiro that the discovery “confirms that the plane went down in that area,” hundreds of miles from the Brazilian archipelago of Fernando de Noronha.

He said the strip of wreckage included metallic and nonmetallic pieces, but did not describe them in detail. No bodies were spotted in the crash of the Airbus, in which all aboard are thought to have died.

The discovery came just hours after authorities announced they had found an airplane seat, an orange buoy and signs of fuel in a part of the Atlantic Ocean with depths of up to three miles.

Mr. Jobim said recovery of the plane’s cockpit voice and data recorders could be difficult because of the depth of the ocean where the debris was found.

Brazil’s navy said three commercial ships in the area were joining the search, and France said it would send a ship capable of deep-water exploration.

The pilots spotted two areas of floating debris — but no signs of life — about 410 miles beyond the Brazilian archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, near Flight 447’s path from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, said air force spokesman Jorge Amaral.

“The locations where the objects were found are toward the right of the point where the last signal of the plane was emitted,” Col. Amaral said. “That suggests that it might have tried to make a turn, maybe to return to Fernando de Noronha, but that is just a hypothesis.”

On board the flight were 61 French citizens, 58 Brazilians, 26 Germans, nine Chinese and nine Italians. A lesser number of citizens from 27 other countries also were on the passenger list.

The two Americans on board were a 60-year-old geologist Michael Harris and his 54-year-old wife, Anne, residents of Rio de Janeiro who were headed to Europe for work and vacation. They lived previously in Lafayette, La.

A U.S. Navy P-3 surveillance plane arrived in Brazil on Tuesday morning to help if needed, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

The U.S. also was considering contributing unmanned underwater vehicles in the search, according to a defense source who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

President Obama told French television stations that the United States is ready to do everything necessary to find out what happened.

The discovery of debris came more than 24 hours after the jet went missing, with all feared dead.

Rescuers were still scanning a vast sweep of ocean extending from far off northeastern Brazil to waters off West Africa. The 4-year-old plane was last heard from at 10:14 p.m. EST Sunday.

Investigators on both sides of the ocean are trying to determine what brought the Airbus A330 down, with few clues to go on so far. Potential causes could include violently shifting winds and hail from towering thunderheads, lightning or some combination of other factors.

The crew gave no verbal messages of distress before the crash, but the plane’s system sent an automatic message just before it disappeared, reporting lost pressure and electrical failure.

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