Air France Preparing First Payment to Crash Victims’ Families

June 19, 2009

Air France will compensate the families of the victims of a June 1 crash in which 228 people died, the company’s chief executive said on Friday.

Flight AF 447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris crashed into the Atlantic after flying into stormy weather. The causes of the crash are not known. Brazilian and French ships are still searching the ocean for debris and bodies.

“For now we are going to concentrate on the first advance that will be paid for each victim, approximately 17,500 euros ($24,420),” Air France CEO Pierre-Henri Gourgeon said on RTL radio.

“The lawyers of our insurers in every country are talking to the victims’ families to try and organise this advance payment,” he said.

Gourgeon presented the payments as a compassionate gesture from the airline, not an admission of liability.

Passengers from 32 nationalities died in the crash of the Airbus 330. Among them were 61 French people and 58 Brazilians.

Asked how the probe into the causes of the disaster was going, Gourgeon echoed words of caution from French investigators who said this week they were getting closer to understanding what happened but had no certainties yet.

The investigators said it was not possible at this stage to know whether unreliable speed readings from the aircraft’s sensors had contributed to the crash.

The aircraft’s flight data recorders or “black boxes” have not been found. Gourgeon said he had not lost hope that they would be located.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau and Estelle Shirbon; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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