Wednesday 7 December 2016

Wreckage sites of missing EgyptAir jet found in Mediterranean

Published 15/06/2016 | 21:30

An Egyptian journalist holds a candle and a poster supporting EgyptAir during a candlelight vigil for the victims of Flight 804 (AP)
An Egyptian journalist holds a candle and a poster supporting EgyptAir during a candlelight vigil for the victims of Flight 804 (AP)

Egypt has spotted and obtained images from the wreckage of the EgyptAir plane that crashed into the Mediterranean last month, killing all 66 people on board, according to officials.

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The country's investigation committee said the vessel John Lethbridge, contracted by the Egyptian government to join the search for the plane debris and flight data recorders, "had identified several main locations of the wreckage".

It added that it obtained images of the wreckage between the Greek island of Crete and the Egyptian coast.

The next step, the committee said, will be drawing a map showing the wreckage location.

An EgyptAir Airbus was forced to land in Uzbekistan after a bomb threat (AP)
An EgyptAir Airbus was forced to land in Uzbekistan after a bomb threat (AP)

The 82-yard-long survey vessel is equipped with sonar and other equipment capable of detecting wreckage at depths up to 6,000ft.

The EgyptAir Airbus A320 en route to Cairo from Paris had been cruising normally in clear skies on an overnight flight on May 19. Radar showed that the aircraft turned 90 degrees left, then a full 360 degrees to the right, plummeting from 38,000ft to 15,000ft before disappearing at about 10,000ft.

Leaked flight data indicated a sensor detected smoke in a toilet and a fault in two of the plane's cockpit windows in the final moments of the flight.

The cause of the crash has not been determined. Ships and planes from Egypt, Greece, France, the US and other nations have been searching the Mediterranean Sea north of the Egyptian port of Alexandria for the jet's voice and flight data recorders, as well as more bodies and parts of the aircraft.

Since the search began, only small pieces of wreckage and human remains have been recovered in a hunt that has been narrowed down to a three-mile area.

Egypt's civil aviation minister Sherif Fathi has said he believes terrorism is a more likely explanation than equipment failure or some other catastrophic event, but no hard evidence has emerged and no militant group has claimed to have downed the jet.

The new announcement came nearly two weeks after the French ship Laplace detected black box signals from the missing plane.

Locator pings emitted by flight data and cockpit voice recorders can be picked up from deep underwater. The Laplace is equipped with three detectors designed to pick up those signals, which in the case of the EgyptAir plane are believed to be at a depth of about 10,000ft. By comparison, the wreckage of the Titanic is lying at a depth of 12,500ft.

Ten days later, Egyptian investigators said time was running out in the search for the black boxes. They said on Sunday that nearly two weeks remain before the batteries of the flight's data and cockpit voice recorders expire and they stop emitting signals.

If retrieved, the boxes could reveal whether a mechanical fault, a hijacking or a bomb caused the disaster. The voice recorder should contain a record of the last 30 minutes in the cockpit, and is equipped to detect even loud breathing. The data recorder would contain technical information on the engines, wings and cabin pressure. Investigators hope the black boxes will offer clues as to why there was no distress call.

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