RECIFE, Brazil - Brazilian authorities yesterday started to identify bodies recovered from a downed Air France jet, and the names of victims found 53 miles apart in the ocean could help prove whether the jet broke up in the air.
A Brazilian ship picked up three more bodies, raising the number recovered to 44, Brazilian Air Force Gen. Ramon Cardoso said.
Currents that had been taking bodies and debris toward the West African nation of Senegal were reversing and could bring them closer to Brazilian and French searchers, but the recovery effort covers a vast area, Cardoso said.
"It is becoming more and more difficult to find and recover bodies," he said 11 days after the May 31 crash hundreds of miles off Brazil's coast. "And the chances of recovering the bodies of all the passengers of the Air France flight are very remote."
Peter Goelz, a former managing director of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, said that the evidence uncovered so far pointed to at least a partial midair breakup of the Airbus A330 and that the 44 bodies found were among the best evidence investigators now had.
Coroners in the northeastern coastal city of Recife began examining 16 bodies yesterday, hoping to identify them through DNA and photos. The rest of the bodies are to be flown in today from the Brazilian islands of Fernando de Noronha, where they are being taken after being loaded onto search ships.
Flight 447 was packed with 228 people and because of that, passengers were likely in their assigned seats as the jet flew into heavy storms, Goelz said.
"If the victims found in one part of the ocean mostly came from one part of the plane, and the victims in the other area came from another part of the plane, that is really telling you something," he said - perhaps what parts of the plane had broken up in the air.
Identification of injuries suffered by passengers also will help investigators.
Goelz noted that the pattern of injuries found on passengers of TWA Flight 800 - which went down in 1996 off the coast of Long Island - helped investigators confirm that the nose broke off and fire blew back from the fuel tank.
Goelz said that damage to the larger pieces of debris fished from the ocean can tell experts where the pieces of the plane broke apart and perhaps why - by forces in the air or by impact with the sea.
Yet more information could come from the plane's flight recorders. Sonar from the French nuclear submarine Emeraude are now ranging across 13 square miles of ocean bottom a day searching for them.
If a box is located, the French can send the remote-controlled mini-sub Nautile to recover it. The Nautile had a key role in the search for the wreckage of the Titanic.
An Airbus 330 carrying
203 people made an emergency landing in Guam yesterday after an electrical problem sparked a small fire in the cockpit, officials said. It is the same type of plane that crashed May 31 in the Atlantic.
The incidents appear unrelated, and an airline official said the electrical problem did not raise
any new safety concerns about the aircraft.
The Jetstar plane was about four hours into its flight from Osaka, Japan, to Australia's Gold Coast when the pilots noticed
a small flame and smoke
in the cockpit near the window, spokesman Simon Westaway said.
A pilot used an extinguisher to put out the fire, which did not spread, he said.
The plane, which was carrying 190 passengers and 13 crew members, landed without incident at Guam International Airport. No injuries were reported.
David Epstein, general manager for government and corporate affairs of Jetstar's parent, Qantas Airways, said the electrical connector for the heating element in the cockpit had malfunctioned, causing sparks and smoke, but the situation was quickly brought under control.