Both Air France and Airbus are being probed for alleged manslaughter in connection with the crash [AFP]
French investigators have found parts of an Air France plane that crashed into the Atlantic while flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in June 2009, and hope to locate the black boxes.
The debris contained remains of some of the 228 passengers and crew who died in the accident, France's environment minister said.
"Bodies were found. They will be recovered and identified," Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet told a news conference on Monday.
The plane went down roughly midway between Brazil and Senegal on June 1, 2009 in the deadliest crash in Air France's history.
The head of France's Bureau of Investigation and Analysis (BEA) said the findings raised hopes the flight data recorders would also be recovered. Investigators hope the data will provide vital clues in their inquiry into what caused the accident.
"The favourable news is that the debris area is relatively concentrated. And this gives us hope of finding the black boxes," Jean-Paul Troadec, BEA director told the AFP news agency.
Troadec said the parts of the wreckage that had been found consisted of "engines and certain elements of the wings".
The BEA is to publish first pictures of the wreckage found in the Atlantic on Monday, in a conference at BEA headquarters near Le Bourget airport, north of Paris.
A new search for the wreckage had been launched on March 25 with the help of the Alucia, an exploration vessel of the US-based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.
It was the fourth attempt to find the debris in hopes of discovering what caused the crash.
The official cause remains undetermined, but it has been partly blamed on malfunctioning speed sensors used by Airbus, with Air France accused of not responding quickly enough to reports that they might be faulty.
Air France and Airbus, who are being probed for alleged manslaughter in connection with the crash, are paying the estimated $12.7m cost of the search.
Troadec had earlier said that the latest search would take a different approach, with investigators trying to simply find the wreckage rather than searching specifically for the flight recorders, or "black boxes".
The latest search also included a much larger area of a 46-mile (75-kilometre) radius around the last known position of Flight 447.
A third search of the ocean floor to try to locate the black boxes had ended in failure last May.
"The determination of location, a few days after the start of the fourth phase of the search at sea which is being financed by Air France and Airbus, is very good news," Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, Air France-KLM chief executive officer said.
There is hope that enough information will come up to explain the cause of the crash, he added.
Jean-Baptiste Audousset, the head of the French association representing the families of the victims, also spoke of "hope for the families", but warned the families were waiting for proof.
"It is key that the black boxes are found," a spokesman for Airbus said. "This is the only possible way to understand what led to the accident."