A leader of a group for families of those lost in the crash of an Air France jet said Tuesday that despite the discovery of their remains on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, he wants the bodies of his loved ones left where they are.
"For me, personally I would like to leave the bodies of my children, my two children, on the seabed," said Robert Soulas, vice president of a support group for the families of the 228 people on the flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris that crashed in stormy weather on June 1, 2009.
French officials announced Monday that the wreckage was found with bodies still aboard. Only 50 bodies and scattered debris had been recovered on the surface after the crash.
The human remains will be brought to the surface and identified, French Ecology and Transportation Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said.
Soulas said his children "died there, so I think it will be much more difficult for us to reopen a new trauma, to relive this trauma and to plan for a grave and so on, and I think it will be a new trauma for us. So I would rather leave the bodies under the water."
Submarines searching for the wreck spotted two engines, the fuselage and landing gear over the weekend. But the flight data recorders have not been recovered, leaving investigators as puzzled as ever about why the crash happened.
"It's still a jigsaw puzzle," said Alain Bouillard, who will be in charge of the recovery operation. "We do not know where the recorders might be."
It is impossible to tell how many bodies remain in the wreck, he added.
Bouillard would not comment on the condition of the bodies, calling it "inappropriate" to discuss.
All the wreckage will be brought to the surface and sent to France for study, said Jean-Paul Troadec, head of the French air accident investigation agency, the Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses, or BEA.
"We want to know what happened in this accident, most particularly so it never happens again," he said.
Three companies bidding to raise the wreck have until Thursday afternoon to submit proposals, he said.
The operation should take three weeks to a month, and will be paid for by the French government at an estimated cost of 5 million euros ($7.1 million), he said.
Authorities are not revealing the exact location of the wreck to protect the site, officials said.
The head of Air France said the discovery was "good news indeed since it gives hope that information on the causes of the accident, so far unresolved, will be found."
The area where the plane went down is far out in the Atlantic -- two to four days for ships to reach from the nearest ports in Brazil or Senegal in West Africa. The underwater terrain is rough, with underwater mountains and valleys, the BEA has said.