One Year Ago: A thought to the victims of AF-447 (Flight Rio de Janeiro –> Paris)

Families honor Air France crash victims a year on
Families mourned in more than a dozen languages and the Air France choir performed Verdi’s Requiem in a ceremony Tuesday honoring the 228 people killed when a Rio de Janeiro-Paris flight crashed into the Atlantic Ocean a year ago.

Robert Soulas was one of about 1,000 relatives attending a ceremony at the Paris Floral Park and the unveiling of a monument to honor the victims of Flight 447 at the French capital’s renowned Pere Lachaise cemetery.

He told The Associated Press that his biggest hope is that the flight recorders are found, and with them answers.

“Our emotion is more intense than ever because we don’t have many answers,” said Soulas, who lost his daughter in the crash.

Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau promised that the investigation into why the plane crashed will continue. He said he will set up a group to meet regularly with families to inform them of progress.

Tuesday’s ceremony was translated into 15 languages, and texts were read by a rabbi, a priest, a pastor, an imam, as well as relatives and Air France personnel.

In the afternoon, flowers were laid at a monument inscribed with 228 birds, representing the victims. A similar memorial was inaugurated last year in Rio de Janeiro.

The flight crashed June 1, 2009 after running into a strong thunderstorm.

A third, euro13 million ($15.8 million) search effort ended last week and failed to find the flight recorders.

Search teams have failed to find the “black box” voice and data recorders. Without those, investigators may never learn why the plane crashed in a remote part of the Atlantic Ocean, in depths of up to 4,000 meters (13,120 feet).

Automatic messages sent by the plane’s computers just before it crashed show it was receiving false air speed readings from airplane sensors known as Pitot tubes. Investigators have insisted that the crash was likely caused by a series of failures and not just the Pitot tubes.

Air France CEO Pierre-Henri Gourgeon and President Jean-Cyril Spinetta were present along with 200 Air France staff.

In Rio de Janeiro, about 80 people — family members, friends, Air France workers and France’s ambassador to Brazil, Yves Saint-Geours — somberly filed into a Catholic church in the Ipanema beachside neighborhood to mark the anniversary of the accident.

“I feel so bad, it was such a tragedy,” said a weeping Ligia Valle, whose niece, Luciana Seba, died in the accident. “Her body was never found. I miss her physical presence so much.”

After the ceremony in the church, family members planned to gather at a memorial in a park overlooking the ocean.


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