RECIFE, Brazil - Six more bodies were recovered from the Atlantic Ocean where an Air France jet crashed, Brazilian officials said Friday, as the race to find the black boxes and gather key evidence from human remains and debris gained urgency.
On the coast, investigators examined corpses and received the first wreckage: two plane seats, oxygen masks, water bottles, and several structural pieces, some no bigger than a man's hand.
Almost two weeks after the crash, Brazil's military said the search is becoming increasingly difficult and a tentative June 25 date for halting efforts has been set. Beginning Monday, officials will meet every two days to evaluate when to stop the search, depending on whether they are still finding bodies or debris.
The black boxes - whose emergency locator beacons begin to fade after 30 days - along with debris and bodies from the jet, all contain crucial clues as to how and why Air France Flight 447 went down en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.
Navy Vice Adm. Edison Lawrence said the Brazilians "have information" that a French ship has found six more bodies - which would bring the total found to 50. It was not clear when these bodies were recovered, Lawrence said he thought it was either Thursday or Friday. It wasn't immediately possible to verify this with French officials.
William Waldock, who teaches air crash investigation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona, said the ability for a body to float in water - and remain visible to searchers - depends highly on water temperatures and sea life in the area.
According to the Brazilian military, the water temperature in the areas they are looking is averaging about 82 degrees (28 degrees Celsius) - warm water that speeds up the process of a body surfacing, floating, and then sinking once again, Waldock said.
"At this point, it's not really surprising you are hearing them (the Brazilian military) talking about an end to the search," he said.
In water temperatures like those in the search area, Waldock said an intact body could likely float for two or three weeks - Air France Flight 447 went down May 31 with 228 on board. Those warm waters also mean there is a lot of marine life in the area and "they'll break a body down faster."
A body, once torn open, will quickly sink, Waldock noted.
Medical authorities examining the 16 bodies already brought on to land in Recife have refused to release information about the state of the corpses.
Meanwhile, military ships and planes continued to struggle in worsening weather to find more bodies and debris. Brazilian ships didn't pick up more bodies on Friday, but they did find more debris, the details of which weren't disclosed.
The most important piece recovered to date is the virtually intact vertical stabilizer, which could give the French investigative agency BEA solid clues about what prompted the crash.
"The debris will be at the disposition of the BEA and they will decide what to do with it," said Brazilian Air Force Gen. Ramon Cardoso.