PARIS – France's chief air disaster investigator said on Wednesday he was unhappy that a French pathologist had not been allowed to take part in autopsies in Brazil of bodies recovered after an Air France plane crash.

Brazilian and French ships are still searching for wreckage and bodies from the plane that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on its way from Rio de Janeiro to Paris on June 1, killing all 228 people on board.

Paul-Louis Arslanian, head of the BEA agency in charge of investigating the crash, cautioned against speculation about the causes but said investigators were getting a little closer to understanding what had happened.

We are getting a little closer to our goal but don't ask me what the percentage of hope is, Arslanian told a news conference, stressing the conditions in a remote area of ocean were among the most challenging in an air crash investigation.

He said a French pathologist sent to Brazil had not been authorized to take part in the autopsies of recovered bodies, and France had not had access to the Brazilian autopsy results.

During his televised news conference he declined to say more on the subject, but afterwards he was pressed by reporters to say if he was dissatisfied with the lack of access given to the French doctor.

I am not happy. Eventually, I hope I'll have an explanation. For the time being it is a fact and nothing more. Please don't try to create problems between France and Brazil, he said.


Almost equal numbers of French and Brazilian passengers died in the crash of the Airbus A330, and both countries have been keen to show they are doing their utmost to recover bodies and understand the causes of the disaster.

Arslanian urged the public to show a lot of patience and to stick to known facts rather than engage in speculation.

The investigation agency has so far said data transmitted from the plane before it crashed indicated unreliable speed readings from the aircraft's sensors, but that it was too early to say whether this contributed to the accident.

In order to establish the causes of the crash, the worst in Air France's history, search teams must recover the plane's flight data recorders or black boxes.

But the seabed where the plane is thought to have crashed is mountainous, meaning the wreckage could be lying at a depth of anything between 1 km (0.6 miles) and 4 km, investigators say.

The pinger locator beacons on the flight recorders send an electronic impulse every second for at least 30 days. The signal can be heard up to 2 km away.

The goal is to understand what happened and for that we need tools and these tools must be facts. The recorders are recorders of facts. If we had them we would have more facts at our disposal, Arslanian said.

(Writing by Francois Murphy and Estelle Shirbon)