New searches over jet crash that killed Riverdance star
Wreckage from a crashed passenger jet in which a woman from Northern Ireland died has been found in the Atlantic.
Air France Flight 447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris came down in a tropical storm on June 1, 2009, killing all 228 people on board.
Former Riverdance star Dr Eithne Walls, who was in her 20s and from Ballygowan, Co Down, was among those killed.
Dr Walls was with two doctor friends from the Republic when their plane ditched in the ocean. Her body has yet to be recovered.
French air accident investigators now believe that parts of a plane retrieved at the weekend by a deep-sea salvage vessel are from the missing Airbus A330. Last month, French authorities started a fourth search for the plane’s ‘black box’, the vital recording equipment which could hold the key to finding out why it crashed.
Investigation director Jean-Paul Troadec said yesterday there is “hope” of finding the plane's black boxes due to the debris area being “relatively concentrated”.
The salvage operation involves dives to depths of up to 4,000m (13,120ft) using specialised robots to search the ocean floor between Brazil and West Africa. It was described as a “systematic exploration” of an area of some 10,000 sq km (3,900 sq miles).
France's Bureau of Investigations and Analysis (BEA) said that new plane parts had been found by the search team, led by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
“These parts have been identified by BEA investigators as belonging to the wreck of the A330-203, Flight AF 447,” it added. The bureau promised to release further information later. The initial search operation found only 50 bodies and hundreds of pieces of the smashed aircraft. It was the worst crash in Air France’s history.
BEA has previously described the probe as one of history's most challenging plane crash investigations
Last month, a French judge filed preliminary manslaughter charges against Air France over the crash.
In 2009 investigator Alain Bouillard said the plane's speed sensors, called Pitot tubes, were not the direct cause of the crash but a factor in it.
“It is an element but not the cause,” Mr Bouillard said at time, who added that the jet had plunged vertically into the ocean intact and at high speed. But the cause of the disaster remains largely unexplained.