EgyptAir crash: Egyptian navy recovers human remains

Egyptian military confirms it has found more wreckage in the search for Flight MS804

Relatives of passengers and crew of the missing EgyptAir jet waited for news at Cairo airport on Thursday (May 19). Egyptian authorities ushered the families into a closed-off waiting area, but those who emerged from the VIP hall said they had been given no information. Video: Reuters

 

Egypt’s civil aviation ministry confirmed on Friday that the Egyptian military had found more wreckage and human remains believed to belong to those on board an EgyptAir flight that crashed in the Mediterranean.

“The Egyptian navy was able to retrieve more debris from the plane, some of the passengers’ belongings, human remains, and plane seats. The search is ongoing,” the ministry said in a statement.

The flight, an Airbus A320 that was flying from Paris to Cairo with 66 people on board, vanished minutes after moving from Greek to Egyptian airspace on Thursday morning.

The aircraft was carrying 56 passengers and 10 crew, including three security personnel. The airline said two babies and one child were on board.

The navy was searching an area about 290km north of the port city of Alexandria, just south of where the signal from the plane was lost early on Thursday.

There was no sign of the bulk of the wreckage, or of a location signal from the “black box” flight recorders.

Earlier on Friday, authorities confirmed luggage, two seats and a body part had been recovered during the search.

“A short while ago we were briefed by the Egyptian authorities ... on the discovery of a body part, a seat and baggage just south of where the aircraft signal was lost,” Greek defence minister Panos Kammenos told reporters in Athens.

Mr Kammenos reiterated that Greek radars picked up sharp swings in the plane’s trajectory as it plunged from a cruising altitude to 15,000ft, before vanishing from radars.

EgyptAir chairman Safwat Moslem told Egyptian state television on Friday that the radius of the current search area for the crashed plane was 64km but this would be expanded as necessary.

Smoke alerts

The news came before reports in US media that there were smoke alerts aboard the flight minutes before it crashed.

However, a US official characterised the report as an unconfirmed rumour.

PLANE


CNN said it obtained the data through a screengrab from an Egyptian source, and said the data came from an automatic system aboard the plane called the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS).

ACARS routinely downloads flight data to the airline operating the aircraft.

Meanwhile, the European Space Agency reported on Friday that a satellite had spotted a potential oil slick in the Mediterranean about 40km southeast of the plane’s last known location.

However, the agency said there is “no guarantee” the slick is from the missing flight.

Islamist militants

Although suspicions pointed towards Islamist militants who blew up another airliner over Egypt just seven months ago, no group has claimed responsibility for the crash more than 24 hours after the flight’s disappearance.

Egyptian prime minister Sherif Ismail said on Thursday that it was too early to rule out any explanation for the disaster.

However, the country’s aviation minister said a terrorist attack was more likely than a technical failure.

Investigators

Three French investigators and a technical expert from Airbus arrived in Cairo early on Friday to help investigate the fate of the missing plane, airport sources said.

France is participating in an Egypt-led investigative committee into the incident as it is the country where the plane was manufactured and the one with the second-most number of passengers, 15, on board.

The 66 people on board included 30 Egyptians, two Iraqis, and one person each from the UK, Belgium, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Chad, Portugal, Algeria and Canada.

Egyptian president Adbel Fattah al-Sisi has offered condolences for those on board, which amounted to Cairo’s official confirmation of their deaths.

The plane was manufactured in 2003. Its captain, Mohamed Said Shoukair, had 6,275 flying hours’ experience. He did not send a distress signal.

Confusion over wreckage

EgyptAir initially claimed it had found part of the wreckage and life jackets belonging to MS804 near the island of Karpathos, east of Crete, but the airline’s vice-president, Ahmed Adel, later said: “We stand corrected.”

He added that the recovered debris “is not our aircraft”.

Greece and Turkey are also involved in the international effort to find the wreckage, while the US navy has dispatched a P-3 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft from a base in Sicily.

Officials from a number of US agencies told Reuters that a US review of satellite imagery so far had not produced any signs of an explosion.

Tourism

With its archaeological sites and Red Sea resorts, Egypt is a traditional destination for Western tourists.

But the industry has been badly hit by the downing of a Russian Metrojet flight last October, in which all 224 people on board were killed, as well as by an Islamist insurgency and a string of bomb attacks.

Guardian, Reuters