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Father of crash victims: Leave their remains under water

From Saskya Vandoorne and Niki Cook, CNN
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Air France recorders still missing
  • Bodies have been found in the wreckage of an Air France jet in the Atlantic
  • Planning a burial would bring "a new trauma for us," the father of two young victims says
  • The bodies will be brought to the surface and identified, a French official says

Paris (CNN) -- A leader of a group for families of those lost in the crash of an Air France jet said Tuesday that despite the discovery of their remains on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, he wants the bodies of his loved ones left where they are.

"For me, personally I would like to leave the bodies of my children, my two children, on the seabed," said Robert Soulas, vice president of a support group for the families of the 228 people on the flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris that crashed in stormy weather on June 1, 2009.

French officials announced Monday that the bulk of the wreckage was found with bodies still aboard. Only 50 bodies and scattered debris had been recovered on the surface after the crash.

The human remains will be brought to the surface and identified, French Ecology and Transportation Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said.

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Soulas said his children "died there, so I think it will be much more difficult for us to reopen a new trauma, to reopen a hardship and to plan for a grave and so on, and I think it will be a new trauma for us. So I would prefer to leave the bodies under the water."

Submarines searching for the wreck spotted two engines, the fuselage and landing gear over the weekend. But the flight data recorders have not been recovered, leaving investigators as puzzled as ever about why the crash happened.

"It's still a jigsaw puzzle," said Alain Bouillard, who will be in charge of the recovery operation. "We do not know where the recorders might be."

It is impossible to tell how many bodies remain in the wreck, he added.

Bouillard would not comment on the condition of the bodies, calling it "inappropriate" to discuss.

The debris is dispersed over "quite a compact area" of about 600 meters by 200 meters (1,960 feet by about 650 feet), he said.

What investigators hope to find out Video

All the wreckage will be brought to the surface and sent to France for study, said Jean-Paul Troadec, head of the French air accident investigation agency, the Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses, or BEA.

"We want to know what happened in this accident, most particularly so it never happens again," he said.

Three companies bidding to raise the wreck have until Thursday afternoon to submit proposals, he said.

The operation should take three weeks to a month, and will be paid for by the French government at an estimated cost of 5 million euros ($7.1 million), he said.

Authorities are not revealing the exact location of the wreck to protect the site, officials said.

The head of Air France said the discovery was "good news indeed since it gives hope that information on the causes of the accident, so far unresolved, will be found."

CEO Pierre-Henri Gourgeon added his thanks to the French authorities "who employed hitherto unheard of means to pursue searches."

The discovery of the Airbus A330-200 that was Air France Flight 447 followed three unsuccessful searches. For the latest effort, "a different calculation based on currents of the sea and what might have happened" was used, said Troadec, the BEA chief, said.

The BEA said Sunday that a team led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution had discovered the wreckage during an underwater search operation conducted within the previous 24 hours.

TIME: Underwater photos of the debris

Studies of the debris and bodies found after the crash led the BEA to conclude the plane hit the water belly first, essentially intact. Oxygen masks were not deployed, indicating that the cabin did not depressurize, the agency said in a 2009 report.

Automated messages sent from the plane in the minutes before the crash showed there were problems measuring air speed, investigators have said, though they said that alone was not enough to cause the disaster.

The area where the plane went down is far out in the Atlantic -- two to four days for ships to reach from the nearest ports in Brazil or Senegal in West Africa. The underwater terrain is rough, with underwater mountains and valleys, the BEA has said.

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