Autopsies suggest Air France jet broke up in sky
Autopsies revealed fractures in the legs, hips and arms of Air France disaster victims, a Brazilian official said Wednesday. Experts said those injuries - and the large pieces of wreckage pulled from the Atlantic - strongly suggest the plane broke up in the air, Associated Press reported.
There have been no visible signs of burning or charring on bodies or wreckage, though that doesn't rule out an explosion somewhere outside the passenger cabin, these crash experts told The Associated Press.
A spokesman for Brazilian medical examiners told the AP that the fractures were found in autopsies on an undisclosed number of the 50 bodies recovered so far. The official spoke on condition he not be named due to department rules.
"Typically, if you see intact bodies and multiple fractures - arm, leg, hip fractures - it's a good indicator of a midflight break up," said Frank Ciacco, a former forensic expert at the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board. "Especially if you're seeing large pieces of aircraft as well."
The pattern of fractures was first reported Wednesday by Brazil's O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper, which cited unamed investigators. The paper also reported that some victims were found with little or no clothing, and had no signs of burns.
That lack of clothing could be significant, said Jack Casey, an aviation safety consultant in Washington, D.C., who is a former accident investigator. "In an in-air break up like we are supposing here, the clothes are just torn away."
Casey also said multiple fractures are consistent with a midair breakup of the plane, which was cruising at about 34,500 feet (10,500 meters) when it went down.
"Getting ejected into that kind of windstream is like hitting a brick wall - even if they stay in their seats, it is a crushing effect," Casey said. "Most of them were long dead before they hit the water would be my guess."