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Air France victims' injuries suggest plane broke up in the air

Autopsies on an undisclosed number of the 50 bodies recovered from Flight 447 show fractures in the legs, hips and arms, experts say.

June 18, 2009|Associated Press

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL — Autopsies have revealed fractures in the legs, hips and arms of Air France crash victims, injuries that, along with the large pieces of wreckage pulled from the Atlantic, strongly suggest the plane broke up in the air, experts said Wednesday.

With more than 400 bits of debris recovered from the ocean's surface, the top French investigator expressed hope that investigators would learn what brought down Flight 447, but he also called the conditions "one of the worst situations ever known in an accident investigation."

French investigators are beginning to form "an image that is progressively less fuzzy," Paul-Louis Arslanian, who runs the French air accident investigation agency BEA, said at a news conference outside Paris.

A spokesman for Brazilian medical examiners said fractures were found through autopsies on an undisclosed number of the 50 bodies recovered. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of department rules.

The pattern of fractures was first reported Wednesday by Brazil's O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper, which cited unnamed investigators. The paper also reported that some victims were found with little or no clothing and bore no sign of burns.

When a jet crashes into water mostly intact, debris and bodies are generally broken into small pieces, said Frank Ciacco, a former forensic expert at the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.

Searchers are scanning the Atlantic for signs of the Airbus A330 that crashed May 31 en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. All 228 people aboard were killed.

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