Underwater search teams have located pieces of an Air France plane that crashed in the Atlantic in 2009, killing 228 people -- including three young Irish doctors.
Among the dead were Dr Jane Deasy (22), from Rathgar in Dublin; Dr Aisling Butler (22), from Roscrea, Co Tipperary; and Dr Eithne Walls, from Belfast, a former Riverdance star. They were flying home from a holiday.
Previous extensive and expensive search efforts proved futile in attempts to shed light on the cause of the crash. All 228 people aboard Flight 447, en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, were killed when the plane slammed into the ocean during an intense high-altitude thunderstorm.
The French air accident investigation agency BEA said last night that a team aboard the expedition ship Alucia "has located pieces of an aircraft ... in the last 24 hours".
BEA said its investigators identified the pieces as parts of Flight 447, and that further details would come later. It did not identify what parts of the plane were located, or where.
Searchers are carrying out a fourth effort to find remains of the plane -- especially its flight recorders -- in hopes of determining the cause of the crash.
Finding the cause took on new importance last month when a French judge filed preliminary manslaughter charges against Air France and the plane's manufacturer, Airbus. Experts say without the flight data and voice recorders, authorities will not likely determine what was at fault.
Air France and Airbus are financing the estimated €8.7m cost of the new search. The search is being focused in area of about 3,900 square miles, several hundred miles off Brazil's northeastern coast, and could last until July.