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PARIS—After more than two weeks of analyzing flight records, cockpit radio transmissions, and floating ocean debris, investigators determined Thursday that the tragic events of Air France Flight 447 were in all likelihood caused by a "giant plane crash."
The shocking discovery, announced during a press conference Friday, finally sheds light on what took place in the early hours of June 1, and answers a number of puzzling questions about the mysterious mid-flight disaster.
"We can now say, with complete confidence, that Air France Flight 447 was brought down by an unscheduled and unforeseen plane crash," lead French investigator Michel Villon stated. "Indeed, a survey of all the evidence indicates that this terrible tragedy was the direct result of a large airliner falling suddenly from the sky, dropping 30,000 feet, and colliding with the Atlantic Ocean at extremely high speeds."
"This is devastating news, to say the least," Villon continued. "Hopefully our findings here will help bring some closure to the families most affected by this horrible event."
French and Brazilian authorities said their first hint that the tragedy was caused by a plane crash came last week, when divers recovered several large metal fragments from Air France Flight 447 that were not fused together in one solid mass, as is typical of a functioning aircraft. The fragments were then analyzed and found not to be airborne or otherwise soaring intact across the sky. The final clue, they said, was that certain key features of the crash site in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean seemed to be consistent with a huge commercial airliner having crashed there.
The discovery of deceased Flight 447 passengers further supported the so-called "plane crash" theory, as investigators claimed these men and women would most likely have already arrived in Paris had the Airbus jet not gone down.
While the aircraft's black box has yet to be recovered, officials speculated that the simple fact that they are currently searching for it corroborates their theory of a plane crash.
"It took us a long time to figure out exactly what led to this unspeakable event," said Brazilian aviation expert Federico Lobão, who spent countless hours carefully studying footage of the wreckage. "Never could we have imagined that something like a plane crash could be behind such a catastrophic plane crash."
Lobão is lead author of a 450-page report that cites a projectile of steel suddenly spiraling downward with incredible force as the main cause of the Air France tragedy. With his team's findings, a number of competing theories have been put to rest. Among them: that the disaster was triggered by a pack of wolves let loose aboard the aircraft; that all 228 people aboard died instantly from heart disease, natural causes, or possibly some form of diabetes; terrorism; that something went terribly wrong during a standard layover 3,000 feet below sea level; terrorism again; and pilot error.
According to the FAA, plane crashes are responsible for nearly 98 percent of all mid-flight catastrophes and an estimated 100 percent of all aircraft-related deaths. In response to these frightening statistics, airline officials have announced they will be instituting a number of preventive measures in hopes of avoiding future accidents. So far, these include requiring pilots to keep an aircraft up in the air at all times following takeoff, and not allowing an airliner carrying hundreds of travelers to plummet rapidly into the ground.
"We are currently doing everything we can to stop any unnecessary collisions with the ground from taking place during our flights,” Air France CEO Pierre Sturges said. “While we work to figure out this whole not-crashing-planes-and-killing-passengers thing, people should keep in mind that the chances of their flight crashing are almost incalculably small and incredibly unlikely.""Unless, of course, it does,” he added.