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Official: Air France crash investigators will be able to ID bodies

From Winnie Andrews, CNN
  • NEW: It could take months to identify the victims of the crash, an official says
  • Enough DNA is recovered to identify two bodies found this month, the official says
  • All 228 people on Air France 447 died when the plane crashed mysteriously two years ago
  • The bulk of the wreckage was located this year after an unprecedented search

Paris (CNN) -- French air crash investigators expect to be able to identify two bodies recovered this month from an Air France crash that killed 228 people two years ago, an official close to the investigation told CNN Tuesday.

Having recovered enough DNA to know they will be able to identify the victims, police launched a new operation Saturday to bring up more bodies from the wreck on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, the official said.

Everyone on board Air France 447 was killed when the plane mysteriously dropped out of the sky en route from Brazil to France on June 1, 2009.

Two years later, no one knows why the Airbus A330 slammed into the ocean in stormy weather, falling so fast that air masks did not have time to drop.

But investigators trying to determine the cause have recovered the complete contents of the flight data recorder and the last two hours of cockpit conversation, they said earlier this month.

It will take several weeks to analyze the data, French air accident experts said May 16.

Discovering that there was data on the recorders "is excellent news. It is really going to help us work out what happened on that plane," said Martine Del Bono, spokeswoman for France's Bureau of Investigation and Analysis (BEA).

The cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder were found at the beginning of May after an unprecedented series of submarine searches of a mountain range 3,900 meters (12,700 feet) under the ocean. They were brought to the surface and taken to Paris by ship and plane.

The investigators recovered two bodies from the fuselage -- after finding only about 50 bodies in the days immediately after the crash.

They said this month that they would not bring up more bodies if they could not identify the two they already have. But after recovering enough DNA to identify the bodies, they launched a new operation this weekend, the official close to the investigation told CNN Tuesday.

The bodies have not actually been identified yet, adding that the process could take months, said the official, who asked not to be identified discussing sensitive details of the investigation.

The bulk of the plane, located earlier this year, contains many more human remains, according to investigators.

Recovering more bodies will be a difficult task, with miles of cable required to bring each one up over a period of three hours, they said.

Investigators also brought an engine and an avionics bay containing computers to the surface, they said.

The pilots of Air France 447 lost contact with air traffic controllers while flying across an area of the Atlantic known for severe turbulence, officials said. But exactly what caused the plane to plunge into the ocean remains a mystery.

The fuselage was discovered in April with bodies still inside, investigators said.

Some relatives of those who died have expressed reservations about remains being brought to the surface.

Last month Robert Soulas, head of a support group for families of flight victims, said: "For me, personally I would like to leave the bodies of my children, my two children, on the seabed."

Other relatives have called for the bodies to be recovered.

CNN's Winnie Andrews in Paris contributed to this report.