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Brazilian air force says debris was not from Air France crash

  • Story Highlights
  • Wreckage, debris found earlier is not from missing plane, air force says
  • Conflicting reports over why Air France jet crashed with 228 aboard
  • Oil slick appears to rule out midair fire or explosion, Brazil minister says
  • But two Spanish pilots say they saw "intense flash" in area where jet crashed
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RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (CNN) -- The Brazilian air force said that debris picked up Thursday near where officials believe Air France Flight 447 crashed Monday into the Atlantic Ocean was not from the plane.

The front page of a Brazil newspaper reports on the disappearance of the plane's 228 passengers and crew.

Image released by the Brazilian Air Force shows oil slicks in the water near a debris site.

"It has been verified that the material did not belong to the plane," Brigadier Ramon Borges Cardoso told reporters in Recife about the material recovered Thursday. "It is a pallet of wood that is utilized for transport. It is used in planes, but on this flight to Paris, there was no wooden pallet."

He added that oil slicks seen on the ocean were not from the plane, either, and that the quantity of oil exceeded the amount the plane would have carried.

"No material from the airplane was picked up," he said.

The announcement left open the question of whether other debris that had not yet been plucked from the ocean might be from the plane.

On Wednesday, searchers recovered two debris fields and had identified the wreckage, including an airplane seat and an orange float as coming from Flight 447. Officials now say that none of the debris recovered is from the missing plane.

Helicopters had been lifting pieces from the water and dropping them on three naval vessels.

Brazilian Air Force planes spotted an oil slick and four debris fields Wednesday but rain and rough seas had kept searchers from plucking any of the debris from the water.

Officials said searchers had found objects in a circular 5-kilometer (3-mile) area, including one object with a diameter of 7 meters (23 feet) and 10 other objects, some of which were metallic, Brazilian Air Force spokesman Jorge Amaral said.

The debris was found about 650 kilometers (400 miles) northeast of the Fernando de Noronha Islands, an archipelago 355 kilometers off the northeast coast of Brazil.

Eleven aircraft and five ships are engaged in the search, including airplanes from France and the United States.

Earlier Thursday, a public interfaith service was held for the 228 victims at a 200-year-old Catholic Church in downtown Rio. Joining family members were members of the Brazilian armed forces, who are leading the recovery effort.

"Whoever has faith, whoever believes in God, believes in the eternity of the soul," said Mauro Chavez, whose friend lost a daughter on the flight. "This means everything."

Investigators have not yet determined what caused the plane to crash. The flight data recorders have not been recovered, and the plane's crew did not send any messages indicating problems before the plane disappeared.

A Spanish pilot said he saw an "intense flash" in the area where Flight 447 came down off the coast of Brazil, while a Brazilian minister appeared to rule out a midair explosion.

Meanwhile, a report in France suggested the pilots were perhaps flying at the "wrong speed" for the violent thunderstorm they flew into early on Monday before the Airbus A330's systems failed.

Le Monde newspaper reported that Airbus was sending a warning to operators of A330 jets with new advice on flying in storms.

As several ships trawled the debris site in the Atlantic, Brazil's defense minister said a 20-kilometer (12-mile) oil slick near where the plane, en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, went down indicated it probably did not break up until it hit the water.

If true, that would rule out an in-flight explosion as the cause of the crash of Air France Flight 447, Defense Minister Nelson Jobim told reporters.

However, both pilots of an Air Comet flight from Lima, Peru, to Lisbon, Portugal, sent a written report on the bright flash they said they saw to Air France, Airbus and the Spanish civil aviation authority, the airline told CNN.

"Suddenly, we saw in the distance a strong and intense flash of white light, which followed a descending and vertical trajectory and which broke up in six seconds," the captain wrote.

Air Comet declined to identify the pilot's name but said he waited until landing to inform Air Comet management about what he saw. Air Comet then informed Spanish civil aviation authorities. The Air Comet co-pilot and a passenger aboard the same flight also saw the light.

But Robert Francis, former vice chairman of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, said the question of determining where a plane broke up "is a very difficult one to deal with." He told CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" that "there are lots of things that cause a plane to go out of control."

He added that extremely strong winds are not unusual near Brazil. Pilots who fly over that part of the world keep track of radar and "are very, very wary about the weather as they go back and forth down in that area."

Jobim said currents had strewn the debris widely and that the search area had been expanded to 300 square miles. Video Watch report on the struggle to find pieces of the plane »

The Airbus A330 went down about three hours after beginning what was to have been an 11-hour flight. No survivors have been found. Map of Flight AF 447's flight path »

The NTSB said Wednesday it has accepted an invitation from the French aviation accident investigation authority, the Bureau d'Enquetes et d'Analyses, to aid in the investigation.

The aircraft's computer system did send about four minutes of automated messages indicating a loss of cabin pressure and an electrical failure, officials have said.

Some investigators have noted that the plane flew through a severe lightning storm. Foul play has not been ruled out.

Air France had received a bomb threat May 27 for a flight from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Paris, sources in the Argentine military and police told CNN on Wednesday. Video Watch as experts question whether recovery is possible »

According to the officials, who had been briefed on the incident and declined to be identified because of the ongoing investigation, the Air France office in Buenos Aires received the threat from a man speaking Spanish.

Authorities checked the Boeing 777 and found nothing. Security was tightened during check-in for Flight 415, which left on time and without incident, the officials said.

Most of the people on Flight 447 came from Brazil, France and Germany. The remaining victims were from 29 other countries, including three passengers from the United States.

CNN correspondent John Zarrella in Rio de Janeiro and journalist Brian Byrnes from Buenos Aires contributed to this report.

All About Air France-KLM GroupRio de JaneiroBrazilU.S. National Transportation Safety BoardFrance

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