An undersea recovery team has retrieved a first body from the wreck of an Air France jet that crashed into the Atlantic in 2009 with the loss of all 228 on board, French police said on Thursday.
Having remained submerged for two years at a depth of 3,900 metres, the skeleton still attached to a seat from the aircraft, appears to be in a degraded state, the Gendarmerie said in a statement.
Recovering the remains Thursday morning involved great technical difficulty, and it was unclear if all bodies found in the latest search could be recovered. The body was preserved by high pressure and low temperatures as it lay in crash wreckage almost four kilometers deep on the sea floor.
Fifty bodies were found floating in the ocean during the first search effort immediately after the crash.
The raising of the body comes two days after the Airbus A330's cockpit voice recorder was pulled from the ocean, while the data memory unit had been found days earlier.
It is hoped the two black boxes will reveal why AF447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris crashed into the Atlantic. The European aircraft manufacturer and the airline are being investigated for involuntary manslaughter. The crash has been partly blamed on malfunctioning speed sensors used by Airbus.
Relatives for the victims have demanded that all the bodies be recovered from the wreck, but the police statement warned that the deep-water operation faces highly complex and unprecedented conditions.
“The technical feasibility of raising the bodies remains highly uncertain, the statement said, adding that the first body had been secured on board the search ship Ile de Sein in waters midway between Brazil and Africa.
It's difficult because the bodies are well preserved on the seabed with the pressure and the temperature, but bringing them up through warmer water causes decomposition, he said, Al Jazeera reports.
Investigators on board the search vessel have taken DNA samples from the body, the French Interior Ministry reportedly said.
Alan Bouillard, the official of France's Bureau of Investigation and Analysis (BEA) in charge of the probe, has said the team faced ”a real challenge”.