Page last updated at 13:31 GMT, Tuesday, 2 June 2009 14:31 UK

Families' fears for plane missing

Patricia Coakley
Patricia Coakley says her family has been left distraught

Relatives of the five Britons on board the Air France plane that disappeared over the Atlantic are facing an anxious wait for news of their loved ones.

Patricia Coakley, from North Yorkshire, believes her husband Arthur, 61, was among those on the Airbus A330.

Bristol schoolboy Alexander Bjoroy, 11, engineering worker Graham Gardner, 52, from Inverclyde, and a woman from Wales were also on board the flight to Paris.

Brazilian aircraft searching for the plane have spotted debris in the ocean.

Plane seats and other items were sighted 650km (400 miles) north-east of Brazil's Fernando do Noronha island, the Brazilian air force said.

It is believed that the plane, which left Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, may have flown into a storm.

Air France officials say the plane encountered turbulence about four hours into the flight. It then sent an automatic signal indicating an electrical fault.

They suspect the Airbus suffered a short circuit caused by a lightning strike.

Family anguish

Air France said five Britons and three Irish citizens were on board the flight.

Clifton College Preparatory School in Bristol confirmed one of its boarding pupils, Alexander Bjoroy, was on the plane returning from his half-term break.

He's not going to come back. Yesterday I was really optimistic, today maybe more realistic
Arthur Coakley's wife Patricia

School governor Alison Streatfeild-James said it was an "utter tragedy".

"It's a sombre mood at the school today. All the children were informed in assembly and prayers were said. It's a terrible piece of news to break," she said.

"Children are intelligent, they understand what has happened. All we can do is offer them support in an appropriate way."

Headmaster John Milne said: "Alexander was a well liked and respected boarder who will be sorely missed by his fellow pupils and staff."

Mr Coakley, a founding director of Aberdeen-based oil industry company Project Design and Management Services Limited, was working on a survey in Brazil.

Mrs Coakley, from Whitby, said the news had devastated their sons, Dominic, 31, and Patrick, 29, and daughter Mise, 25.

"They are distraught. They absolutely idolised and worshipped their father," she said.

Mrs Coakley added: "He's not going to come back. Yesterday I was really optimistic, today maybe more realistic. I would love him to come back."

'Dearly missed'

Aberdeen-based undersea engineering firm Subsea 7 said one of its employees, Mr Gardner, from Gourock, was on the plane.

Joyce Gardner, 51, paid tribute to her "loving, caring" husband.

She said: "Graham was very supportive and always there for me when I needed him.

"Although we don't have children, he was very much a family man and loved playing with all the children in our extended family. He was just a big kid at heart.

Missing man Arthur Coakley’s wife, Patricia, and his business partner Ken Pearce

"I'm sure I can speak for everyone that knew him, whether family, friend or colleague, in saying that he will be missed, dearly."

The company's chief executive Mel Fitzgerald said: "Graham is a well respected and highly regarded employee of Subsea 7 who has made a valuable contribution to the company over many years. Our deepest thoughts are with his family".

Dancer Eithne Walls, 26, originally from Ballygowan, County Down, was among the Irish people on board.

She spent a year with a production of Riverdance on Broadway before studying medicine at Trinity College, Dublin, and working as a doctor in the Irish capital.

Ms Walls was travelling home from holiday with fellow doctors Aisling Butler, from Roscrea, County Tipperary, and Jane Deasy from Dublin.

Ocean search

The Irish Republic's foreign affairs minister, Micheal Martin, said his officials had spoken to the families of the Irish passengers thought to be on the plane.

Missing Air France Airbus 330-200 plane F-GZCP
Flight AF 447 left Rio at 1900 local time (2200 GMT) on Sunday
Airbus A330-200 carrying 216 passengers and 12 crew
Contact lost 0130 GMT
Missed scheduled landing at 1110 local time (0910 GMT) on Monday in Paris

"It is clear from the passenger list that there are many people across Europe and in Brazil who face an anxious wait for news and our thoughts are with them during this difficult time," he added.

The Brazilian Air Force is searching for the plane, which is reported to have disappeared 300km (186 miles) north-east of the Brazilian city of Natal.

The Airbus 330-200 was well over the ocean when it disappeared, making search efforts more difficult.

Flight AF 447, with a 12-strong crew and one baby and seven other children among the passengers, had been expected to arrive in Paris at 1110 local time (1010 BST) on Monday.

The French government has ruled out hijacking as a cause of the plane's loss.

Air France has opened a telephone hotline for friends and relatives of people on the plane on 00 33 1570 21055 for callers outside France and 0800 800812 for those inside France.

Map showing Flight AF 447 timeline

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Channel 4 News Families grieve as wreckage found - 24 hrs ago
Guardian Unlimited Ocean debris is from crashed plane - PA - 29 hrs ago
ABC Online Tales of tragedy behind Air France disaster - 36 hrs ago Debris Found In Search For Missing Plane - 37 hrs ago
The Independent UK schoolboy was on board missing Atlantic plane - 42 hrs ago

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