To enjoy the full Mail & Guardian online experience: please upgrade your browser
Boyd Webb and agencies, Karabo Keepile02 Jun 2009 15:03
Debris, including plane seats, were spotted on Tuesday about 650km north-east of Brazil following the disappearance of Air France aircraft with 228 people on board.
Laurent Mathou, the commander of the French air force base in Dakar, said that the weather on Monday, when the plane on a flight from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to Paris disappeared, was bad because of an intertropical front “with a cloudy zone that was very very stormy”.
The Air France plane reported flying into heavy turbulence four hours after taking off from Rio and 15 minutes later it generated automatic messages reporting electrical faults.
No distress signal was received and aviatio experts said they did not have enough information to understand how flight AF 447 could have disappeared without a trace.
“All scenarios have to be envisaged,” said French Defence Minister Herve Morin on Europe 1 radio.
“We can’t rule out a terrorist act since terrorism is the main threat to Western democracies, but at this time we don’t have any element whatsoever indicating that such an act could have caused this accident,” Morin added.
Flight AF 447 was carrying 216 passengers of 32 nationalities, including seven children and one baby. Sixty-one were French citizens, 58 Brazilian and 26 German.
There was also a South African on board.
SA man identified
The South African national was identified on Tuesday.
Erich Heine was born in South Africa and worked for German steel giant Thyssenkrupp, reported Eye Witness News.
Company officials confirmed he was on board the flight when it went missing on Monday morning.
ArcelorMittal spokesperson Sven Lunsche said Heine was a senior manager at the company for several years.
‘He ran our Vanderbijlpark plant and then before that he ran the Newcastle operation and he was one of our youngest managers and joined us in 1991,” the website quoted Lunsche as saying.
French electrical equipment firm CGED said 10 of its staff, all from south-western France, were on the missing plane with their partners after winning a trip to Brazil in the company’s annual sales contest.
Distraught relatives of the flight’s passengers were assisted by teams of psychologists in Paris and Rio.
An Air France spokesperson said on Monday that a lightning strike could be to blame for the disaster, but a South African commercial pilot told the Mail & Guardian Online on Tuesday that such a strike on a plane could not explain the loss of the aircraft.
“I’ve been subjected to lightning strikes and the worst that it can do is affect instruments on the plane and perhaps cause those struments to blow up, and not necessarily the plane itself. A bird strike is more catastrophic than lightning, but this is absurd because birds can’t fly at 30 000 feet,” said the pilot, who has over 30 years’ experience.
The pilot, who cannot be named for professional reasons, said that the sudden decompression of the cabin was another possibility.
This would be caused by something like a “door that hasn’t been properly fixed and as a result, flies off during flight causing people to get sucked out”.
Read more from Karabo Keepile
Create Account | Lost Your Password?