Air France To Give Crash Victims Euro17,500 Advance

Air France will give about euro17,500 ($24,000) as an advance to the families of the victims of the crash of Air France Flight 447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, the company's chief executive said Friday.

Air France lawyers are contacting the families of the 228 victims from 32 countries to make sure the money gets to them, Phillipe Gourgeon said in an interview broadcast Friday on RTL radio.

Air France also is looking into holding a memorial for all the victims of the May 31 crash, Gourgeon said.

Some families of French victims have accused Air France of a lack of sympathy and of failing to provide them with timely information on the investigation into the causes of the crash.

"We are going to be very focused on the first advance of about euro17,000 that is paid for each victim," Gourgeon said. He added that there were no strings attached to accepting the advance.

Contacting the families is no easy matter, Gourgeon said. Sometimes the only contact number for a victim is from a mobile phone that was lost in the crash.

He said the essential objective now was to find the aircraft's black box flight recorders.

The cause of the crash has not been determined, and the flight recorders could provide the key information the investigators need.

Gourgeon also said that difficulties that have emerged in the exchange of information between representatives of France's air accident investigation agency, BEA, and Brazilian medical authorities conducting autopsies on the recovered bodies were being resolved.

On Thursday, the president of France's Senate also had said he was sure that friction between experts from his country and Brazil would soon be resolved and had assured families of victims they would be indemnified.

Autopsies have revealed fractures in the legs, hips and arms of Air France Flight 447 victims, injuries that — along with the large pieces of wreckage pulled from the Atlantic — strongly suggest the plane broke up in the air, experts have said.

With more than 400 pieces of debris recovered from the ocean's surface, the top French investigator expressed optimism earlier this week about determining what brought down the plane. Paul-Louis Arslanian also called the search conditions — far from land in very deep water — "one of the worst situations ever known in an accident investigation."

French and U.S. officials have said there were no signs of terrorism, and Brazil's defense minister said the possibility was not considered. But France says it has not been ruled out.


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