Five Britons and two Americans among 228 feared dead on Air France jet

By Calvin Palmer

Five Britons and two Americans are among the 228 people feared dead after an Air France jet disappeared off radar screens yesterday evening.

Flight AF447, bound for Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris from Rio de Janeiro, ran into severe turbulence and was apparently hit by lightning.

Three Irish passport holders, two from the Republic of Ireland and one from Northern Ireland, are also said to have been on board. The Irish Government said they were travelling with a British woman from Wales. They are all in their mid-twenties.

The passenger list also includes 61 French, 58 Brazilians, nine Italians and nine Chinese among the 32 nationalities on board.

With military planes from Brazil and France searching the Atlantic, it is thought doubtful that what happened to the Airbus A330-200 will remain a mystery.

Air France chief executive Pierre-Henri Gourgeon  said the automatic messages, which were possibly triggered by a number of alarms on the aircraft, were likely received by satellite by the Air France maintenance system.

He added that the cause of the plane’s “clearly exceptional” disappearance, apparently with no distress signal, was unlikely to be purely meteorological.

“Lightning alone is not enough to explain the loss of this plane,” Gourgeon said. “Turbulence alone isn’t enough to explain it. It is always a combination of factors.”

France called on the Pentagon to use its network of spy satellites to help locate the missing aircraft.

[Based on reports by The Daily Telegraph, The New York Times and Reuters.]

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