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Divers begin recovery of Air France crash victims

Deep-sea divers are to start raising the remains of up to 178 victims of the Air France crash from two-and-a- half miles under the Atlantic Ocean.

The gruesome salvage operation to recover the bodies of those killed in the June 2009 air disaster is due to start in the next few days, officials said.

Eithne Walls, a doctor from Ballygowan, was one of the 288 passengers killed when flight 447 plunged into the sea off the coast of Brazil.

Eithne (28), a talented dancer who starred in the musical Riverdance, was returning from holiday in Rio de Janeiro when the accident occurred.

She had been travelling with two university friends, Aisling Butler from Roscrea, Co Tipperary, and Dubliner Jane Deasy.

Eithne’s body — along with nearly a hundred others — has never been recovered.

A source at the French bureau of investigation, which is leading the search mission, said the operation to recover the bodies would be “delicate”.

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Robert Soulas, vice-president of the victims’ families association, said recovery operations raised ethical and emotional considerations.

“The problem of the remaining bodies is a very sensitive one, and risks being very traumatic as we do not know what condition they will be in,” he added.

President of the association, Nelson Marinho, said the decision was “very encouraging” for devastated families of the dead.

“They now have some hope of finding their loved ones' bodies and being able to bury them,” he said.

The news comes just days after investigators found the plane’s memory unit and cockpit voice recorder.

Experts say the data in the two black boxes is the only hope of finding out why the jet crashed into the sea.

While the condition of the instruments is not known, they could hold vital answers about what happened during the final minutes of the flight.

However, the French defence ministry has warned that the information may not be usable after more than 18 months underwater.

A preliminary investigation found the crash could have been caused by faulty speed sensors.

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