By JOSEPH HOLANDES UBALDE,
MANILA, Philippines - It was supposed to be a 12 hour-flight for Arden Jugueta from Brazil to France where he planned to take a connecting flight to Manila to be reunited with his wife Miguela.
But the Filipino seafarer, whose vessel was docked in Rio de Janeiro, never reached Paris.
Just three hours after Air France flight 447 left the Galeao International Airport in Brazil, the twin-engine, long-haul, medium-capacity passenger jet, vanished in the Atlantic Ocean, the Brazilian Air Force said.
Search and rescue operations were immediately sent by Brazil, France and Spain near the island of Fernando de Noronha, where the aircraft last sent a distress signal. But even before the first body of the passenger of Air France flight 447 was fished out of the icy depths of the Atlantic, the Philippine government has already braced for the worst.
"Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto G. Romulo extends the DFA's deepest condolences to Mrs. Miguela Jugueta, the wife of Mr. Jugueta, and his family," the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement.
If all 228 people were killed, it would be the deadliest commercial airline disaster since Nov. 12, 2001, when an American Airlines jetliner crashed in the New York City borough of Queens during a flight to the Dominican Republic, killing 265 people, an Associated Press report said.
Relatives have already trooped to the Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport where their loved ones were supposed to meet with them on Monday morning. But they might wait just a little longer.
On board the flight were 61 French citizens, 58 Brazilians, 26 Germans, nine Chinese and nine Italians. A lesser number of citizens from 27 other countries also were on the passenger list, including two Americans.
Aviation investigators were pondering on several theories on how the high-tech aircraft plunged into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean after reporting bad weather in its path.
In a separate AP report, Brazil's largest airline, TAM, released a statement late Monday saying that pilots flying one of its commercial flights from Paris to Rio spotted what they thought was fire in the ocean along the Air France jet's route.