Wreckage and body parts found, confirming fate of EgyptAir flight
Published 21/05/2016 | 02:30
Egypt announced yesterday that its navy has found human remains, wreckage and the personal belongings of passengers floating in the Mediterranean, confirmation that an EgyptAir jet had plunged into the sea with 66 people on board.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi offered condolences for those on board - amounting to an official acknowledgement of their deaths, although there was still no explanation of why the Airbus had crashed.
"The Egyptian navy was able to retrieve more debris from the plane, some of the passengers' belongings, human remains and plane seats," the Civil Aviation Ministry said.
Flight MS804 was en route from Paris to Cairo with 66 passengers and crew when it vanished early on Thursday.
Egypt says the plane was more likely to have been brought down by a terrorist act than a technical fault.
However, there has been "absolutely no indication" so far as to why the plane came down, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said yesterday.
Three investigators from the French air accident investigation bureau, along with a technical adviser from Airbus, have joined the Egyptian inquiry.
In France, the focus is on whether a possible breach of security happened at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport.
After last November's Paris attacks, some airport staff had their security clearance revoked over fears of links to Islamic extremists.
Egypt's army spokesman said wreckage and passenger belongings had been found 290km from Alexandria.
Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos said a body part, two seats and at least one suitcase had been found.
The items were found slightly to the south of the area where the plane disappeared from radars, Mr Kammenos said.
European Space Agency satellites spotted an oil slick in the area where the flight had vanished but the organisation said there was no guarantee it was from the missing plane.
The search is now focused on finding the plane's flight recorders.
Mr al-Sisi has expressed his "utmost sadness" at the crash. Greek, Egyptian, French and UK military units have been taking part in a search operation near Greece's Karpathos island.
Greece said radar showed the Airbus A320 had made two sharp turns and dropped more than 25,000ft (7,620m) before plunging into the sea.
Eric Moutet, a lawyer for some of the airport employees, told the BBC that there had been attempts by Islamists to recruit staff. "That is clear," he said. "There are people who are being radicalised in some of the trade unions, etc. The authorities have their work cut out with this problem."
Last October, an Airbus A321 operated by Russia's Metrojet blew up over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, with all 224 people on board killed. Sinai Province, a local affiliate of the Isil jihadist group, said it had smuggled a bomb on board.
Shereef Fathy, the Egyptian Minister of Civil Aviation, has formed an investigation committee into the EgyptAir plane crash. It will be be headed by pilot Ayman al-Moqadem, the head of Egypt's commission of aviation accidents - who was also in charge of the investigation into the October 2015 Russian plane crash.
Meanwhile, representatives from Airbus and officials from France have arrived in Egypt to participate in the investigation, the Spokesman of the Egyptian Ministry of Civil Aviation said.
Yesterday there were emotional scenes at the Abu Bakr El Seddik mosque, a short drive from EgyptAir's Cairo headquarters. Family members, friends and colleagues of the cabin crew on the doomed flight gathered for a service to pray and console each other. Some women wept while others stood stoically in remembrance.
Pasant El-Nbrany, an EgyptAir flight attendant, knew all seven of the crew, but her memories of Capt Mohammed Shakir were especially vivid. "He was so kind, he's a professional in his work, he was very helpful. All of the crew had brave hearts."
Another flight attendant, Fatima Ali, said the captain was a religious man who would pray on board and tried to make all five daily prayers, as long as they did not get in the way of his duties.
He would use navigation equipment to figure out the direction of Mecca.