Brazil Starts Complex Task of Identifying Airbus Victims
By Dialogo June 11, 2009(Updated with 13 bodies recovered and other data) Rio de Janeiro, 9 June (EFE). - Today Brazilian authorities began - nine days after the tragedy - the complex task of identifying the first 16 victims of the Air France plane accident, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. The Joint Command of the Navy and the Air Force reported that today the boats in the disaster area recovered another 13 bodies, raising to 41 the total number of bodies recovered from the water since last Saturday, when the first floating human remains were found. The bodies found today were taken to refrigerated chambers in the frigate Bosisio, which is heading to the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha. The boat should approach the archipelago in a few days after sailing about 700 km, a military spokesperson at a press conference in the city of Recife (northeast) stated. Today the first 16 corpses reached the advance post set up in the airport of said archipelago, where coroners and fingerprint recognition experts start the preliminary identification procedures before sending the bodies to Recife. The Navy and the Air Force are leading rescue operations from that city. That will also be the site where Brazilian coroners, with the aid of French experts, will identify the victims by means of photos, DNA samples, and dental records, among other sources. The first bodies to arrive in the continent were examined today in a hangar at the Fernando de Noronha Airport by eight specialists from the Brazilian Federal Police and from the Civil Police of the State of Pernambuco. According to official sources, in Noronha each victim’s clothes and personal objects are “catalogued,” fingerprints are taken, and tissue samples are obtained for eventual genetic comparison. "The specialized work carried out in Fernando de Noronha is quite slow,” Lieutenant Colonel Ramón Borges Cardoso, general director of the Brazilian Aerospace Control Department, explained in a press conference. Once that procedure is finished, the bodies will be transported to Recife on a Hercules C-130 Air Force aircraft. According to the military chief, this could take place tomorrow afternoon. This first group of bodies was transported by the frigate Constitucion up to a point in the high sea approximately 50 km from Fernando de Noronha. From that point they were transferred to two helicopters, a Black Hawk and a Super Puma. The remains were received in the Noronha Airport by soldiers who were wearing green aprons, caps, gloves, and surgical masks over their camouflage uniforms. Despite the fact that several photographers could witness the unloading from a distance, the bags prevented them from seeing the state the bodies were in after floating in the sea for a week. Air Force spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Henry Munhoz reiterated that no comment will be made on the condition of the corpses recovered, and asked the press to refrain from asking related questions. Munhoz added today that, after delivering the first 16 bodies to the helicopters’ crews, the frigate Constitucion returned that same Tuesday to the affected area in order to proceed with the search for more human remains and the debris of the ill-fated A330 aircraft. The search and rescue operation in the middle of the Atlantic is concentrated at a point approximately 440 km northeast of Sao Pedro and Sao Paulo, two uninhabited rocky outcrops located 1,296 km from Recife and 704 km from Fernando de Noronha, which complicates and delays transporting the remains to the continent. Today an Air Force spokesperson presented photos of a piece of metal recovered from the sea which apparently is part of one of the Airbus’s wings, but he emphasized that only the manufacturer will be able to confirm which part of the plane it belongs to. Establishing the causes of the accident and the search for the black boxes are the responsibility of the French authorities, which have sent the submarine Emerade to the area. Its arrival is scheduled for tomorrow.