Just In: Plane Wreckage Spotted Off Brazil’s Coast


air-france1Brazil’s air force has spotted signs of plane wreckage about 375 miles off the coast. The discovery comes a day after Air France flight 447 disappeared off the radar, with 228 people on board. The loved ones of the people who were on board the plane from Rio de Janeiro to Paris have thus far been left to cope with grief compounded by unanswered questions. Though an intensive search effort continued this morning across a vast swath of the Atlantic, French President Nicolas Sarkozy conceded the night before that the chances of finding anyone alive from the disappeared Airbus A330 were “very small.”Dazed and emotional, family members of the missing were being cared for by professional staff and volunteers in Brazil and France.

Some 40 families had gathered today at a private crisis counseling area in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport.

The relatives were all staying in a hotel at the airport, with medical staff and volunteers from the crisis centre, says Cobbe. The Pullman Hotel was being guarded by police who refused access to any media. A separate crisis support team was attending to the families of the Air France crew – all 12 were French nationals.

The airline expected more relatives to arrive today, and has told all they will happily fly them in to Paris from wherever they may be.

Air France sent a team of 20 volunteers, as well as two doctors and a nurse, to Rio from Charles de Gaulle, to help with families there, added Cobbe.

In Brazil, sobbing relatives were flown to Rio de Janeiro. Andres Fernandes, his eyes tearing up at Rio’s Tom Jobim Airport, said a relative “was supposed to be on the flight, but we need to confirm it,” Globo TV reported.

Air France’s manager in Rio de Janeiro, Jorge Assuncao, told reporters that the two biggest groups of nationalities on board were Brazilian and French. Other passengers were American, Angolan, Argentine, Belgian, British, Chinese, Filipino, German, Irish, Italian, Moroccan, Norwegian, Spanish and Slovakian.

CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips reports that one American couple, who had been living in Brazil, were among the missing.

Ann and Michael Harris, formerly of The Woodlands, Texas, were living in Rio de Janiero, where Michael Harris had worked since July, reported CBS affiliate KHOU-TV in Houston.

They were traveling to Paris for a training seminar for Michael, then a vacation, according to family members.

“Words cannot describe right now the emptiness we all feel for them and their families, and all the other families on that flight,” Pandora Vickery, a friend of the Harris couple, told CBS News by phone. “It’s tragic.”

The Airbus A330’s emergency transponders – which can keep sending out a signal for as long as 30 days, even under water – are the searchers’ best hope of finding flight 447, and the families’ best hope of finding some measure of closure.

{CBS Broadcasting/Noam Amdurski-Matzav.com Newscenter}