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Air France jet broke apart before it hit water: report

world Updated: Jun 14, 2009 16:49 IST

The ill-fated Air France jet that crashed into the Atlantic with 228 people on board split in two at high altitude before it plunged into the sea, media reports said on Sunday.

Investigators have concluded that the plane split into two parts, after the discovery of two trails of bodies more than 80 km apart, as it lost control in bad weather and turbulence during its flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris on June 1.

Examination of bodies discovered off the northeastern Brazilian coast indicated that they were dead by the time they hit the water, according to a report in The Sunday Times.

They were stripped of clothes, apparently in the rush of air as they fell from as high as 35,000 ft. Multiple fractures were most likely to have been caused by hitting the water at about 120mph.

The absence of any traces of an explosion, such as burn marks or inhaled smoke, supports the view that the disaster was caused by a combination of factors, possibly beginning with the blockage of speed sensors. The sensors, called pitot tubes, are prone to get clogged with ice and insects.

Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, Air France’s chief executive, acknowledged that malfunctioning speed sensors could have been “a contributing element” in the accident, the newspaper reported.

“We do not deny that there is a problem with the sensors,” he said. “But we cannot say that this is the cause of the accident. We do not know.”