EgyptAir flight crashes with 66 aboard
Cairo, May 19
An EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo crashed into the Mediterranean today with 66 people on board prompting an investigation into whether it was mechanical failure or a bomb.
French President Francois Hollande confirmed that the plane had “crashed” and the Paris prosecutor’s office said its accident department had opened an investigation.
The plane fell 22,000 feet and swerved sharply in Egyptian airspace before it disappeared from radar screens, Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos told a news conference.
Fifteen French citizens were among the 26 foreign passengers on the EgyptAir flight, who also included a Briton and a Canadian.
Both France and Egypt have come under attack by jihadists of the Islamic State group in the past year and Hollande promised a comprehensive investigation into the cause of the crash as suspicions swiftly focused on a bomb.
“We must ensure that we know everything on the causes of what happened. No hypothesis is ruled out or favoured,” he said in a televised address. “Whether it was an accident or another hypothesis that everyone has on their mind -- a terrorist hypothesis... at this stage we must focus on our solidarity with the families and the search for the causes of the catastrophe.”
IS has been waging a deadly insurgency against Egyptian security forces and in October claimed the bombing of a Russian airliner flying home holidaymakers from the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, which killed all 224 people on board.
France earlier called a crisis meeting of top ministers as Prime Minister Manuel Valls said “no theory can be ruled out” to explain the plane’s disappearance.
EgyptAir said contact was lost with the flight about 280 kilometres north of the Egyptian coast.
A Greek aviation source said the flight had disappeared from Greek radar at around 0029 GMT.
“It crashed around 130 nautical miles off the island of Karpathos,” the source told AFP, referring to an island northeast of Crete.
Greek civil aviation chief Constantinos Litzerakos said the pilot had mentioned no problem in the last communication before the plane disappeared.
“The flight controllers contacted the pilot (with the plane) at a height of 37,000 feet (near Athens)... he did not mention a problem,” Litzerakos told Greece’s Antenna TV.
“We tracked the entire process from the plane’s entry (into Greek airspace) to its exit, it does not appear to deviate at all from the coordinates we gave,” he said.
Neither the Greek coastguard nor the navy could confirm reports that a passing ship had seen “a ball of fire in the sky”.
EgyptAir Holding Company vice president Ahmed Adel also said there had been “no distress call” before the plane vanished.
ATHENS: Signs of possible wreckage were found Thursday off the Greek island of Crete in a search for an EgyptAir flight missing in the Mediterranean, a Greek military spokesman told AFP.
“There have been finds southeast of Crete, inside the Cairo flight information area,” general staff spokesman Vassilis Beletsiotis said, adding that an Egyptian C-130 plane had spotted the floating objects, and ships would be sent to investigate.
Greek state TV ERT had earlier reported that debris had been spotted some 230 nautical miles from Crete, about 100 nautical miles from the plane’s last known location.