EgyptAir MS804: 'Traces of explosives' found on victims' bodies

Officials warn against drawing conclusions on cause of crash that killed 66 people

Egypt Air
(Image credit: Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

EgyptAir flight MS804: 'Smoke alerts sent in day before crash'

3 June

The EgyptAir plane which crashed into the Mediterranean last month sent several smoke alerts in the 24 hours before it disappeared, it has been claimed.

Three separate warnings were transmitted from the plane to the airline's base in Cairo during take-off on 18 May, The Times reports.

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The airbus A320 disappeared in the early hours of 19 May, travelling overnight from Paris to Cairo with 66 passengers and crew on board. It was making its fifth flight of the day and passed all safety and maintenance checks.

"All that sheds light on the crash so far are three minutes of data alerts just before the plane lost control," says the Times. "The alerts included smoke detected in a lavatory and the aircraft's electronics bay beneath the flight deck floor."

EgyptAir has denied the claims, with chairman Safwat Musallam saying there had not been a fault with the plane. "We fully trust the aircraft and pilot," he said.

Egyptian investigators believe terrorism to be the most likely cause of the crash, a theory that one person within the French investigation says has led to deteriorating relations between the two teams.

"You do not investigate with preconceived technical or political ideas," the source told Le Parisien.

The new reports come just days after a signal from one of the plane's black boxes was detected by the French navy in the Mediterranean. French transport minister Alain Vidalies is confident the flight recorders will be recovered within a week.

EgyptAir flight MS804: Black box signal detected

01 June

A signal has been detected from one of the black boxes on board the EgyptAir plane that crashed in the Mediterranean last month.

The breakthrough was made by a French navy vessel and confirmed by accident investigators in France, following earlier reports by Egypt's aviation ministry. The location has not been confirmed.

A second ship with a robot capable of diving down to almost 10,000ft to retrieve the flight recorders is now en route to the site, Egyptian officials told The Guardian.

Flight MS804, carrying 66 passengers and crew, vanished from the radar on its way from Paris to Cairo on 19 May. No distress signal appears to have been sent and the cause of the crash remains unclear.

"Some aviation experts have said the erratic flight path reported by the Greek defence minister suggests a bomb blast or a struggle in the cockpit," Sky News reports.

Egyptian officials have been wary of commenting on possible causes, but have admitted that a terrorist attack was more likely than mechanical failure.

Debris from the crash as well as human remains have been discovered floating roughly 180 miles north of the Egyptian coast, but the wreckage remains underwater.

Today's discovery "raises hopes" that the data and cockpit voice recorders can soon be retrieved to provide insight into the final moments of the flight, says the Daily Telegraph.

But search teams are under pressure to recover the black boxes quickly, as the recorders are only able to transmit signals for 30 days.

EgyptAir flight MS804: Underwater signals 'detected'

27 May

Teams searching for the EgyptAir plane that crashed into the Mediterranean last week have detected a signal that could be from sunken wreckage, according to Egypt's lead investigator.

Ayman al-Moqadem told the state newspaper that a radio signal had been received from an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) and could help narrow the search area.

But some experts have expressed caution about the reports, The Guardian says. "There is a low likelihood the ELT would survive and radio doesn't work as well as acoustic signals underwater," John Cox, a former pilot and the chief executive of Safety Operating Systems, told the paper.

EgyptAir flight MS804 was travelling to Cairo from Paris when it crashed into the sea on 19 May, killing all 66 passengers and crew on board. The cause of the crash remains a mystery, but officials have said that a terrorist attack was more likely than technical failure.

Search teams have discovered debris, life jackets and human remains, but the all-important black boxes have yet to be recovered. France's BEA air safety agency said a deep-water search would start in the coming days.

Egyptian and French authorities are "working against the clock", says the Guardian. Acoustic signals that help pinpoint the location of the flight records stop transmitting after 30 days.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people have attended a candlelit vigil for the victims of the crash in Cairo. Attending the event last night, French ambassador Andre Parant told Reuters it was important for those who had lost loved ones "to have a moment to share their sorrow".

EygptAir MS804: Was there an explosion?

25 May

A senior Egyptian official has dismissed reports that remains found at the wreckage of flight MS804 suggest an explosion was to blame for the crash.

On Tuesday, an Egyptian forensics official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Associated Press that the 80 items retrieved from the crash site were fragments of human remains, indicating a blast onboard.

"There isn't even a whole body part, like an arm or a head," the official was quoted as saying, adding that an explosion was the "logical explanation" for the condition of the remains.

However, Hesham Abdelhamid, the head of Egypt's forensics authority, said those reports are incorrect, says The Guardian.

"Everything published about this matter is completely false and mere assumptions that did not come from the forensics authority," he told state news agency Mena.

The Airbus A320, bound for Cairo, lost contact with air traffic control in unexplained circumstances three and a half hours after leaving Paris last Wednesday. It crashed into the Mediterranean 180 miles north of Alexandria shortly afterwards, killing the 56 passengers and ten crew members on board.

So far, the only thing the public has been told about the potential cause is that the plane's automatic warning system detected smoke in multiple locations minutes before contact was lost.

The investigation has been marked by conflicting and sometimes outright contradictory reports attributed to different officials.

Greece's defence minister, Panos Kammenos, stated on Saturday that the plane had swerved several times before plunging into the ocean.

However, the head of Egypt's state air navigation provider, Ehab Azmy, dismissed that, saying the aircraft was on a normal flight path minutes before it disappeared. "There was no turning to the right or left," he said.

EgyptAir flight MS804: Pilot in contact 'minutes before crash'

23 May

The pilot of the EgyptAir flight that crashed in the Mediterranean on Thursday spoke to Cairo's air traffic control for several minutes before the plane vanished, a French television station has claimed.

French TV channel M6 says aviation sources have revealed that one of the pilots, believed to be Captain Mohamed Said Ali Shoukair, reported that smoke had engulfed parts of the aircraft and he had been forced to make an emergency descent to try to clear the fumes.

The report adds that flight MS804 ran into difficulties en route from Paris to Cairo and that the pilot adjusted the altitude in order to depressurise the cabin in an attempt to clear the smoke.

The account, which directly contradicts the official claim that there was no distress call from the passenger jet, has not been confirmed by the BEA, the French agency investigating the crash.

"What was published on media today concerning a recording of a conversation between the pilot of EgyptAir MS804 and Cairo Air traffic control is totally false; the aircraft did not make any contact with Egypt's Air traffic control," says the official statement, as reported in the Aviation Herald.

The statement comes after the release of an audio recording and leaked flight data showing trouble in the cockpit and smoke in one of the toilets in the flight's final moments. The Independent cites a report linking the issue to the Airbus 320's electrics: "A number of messages indicating cockpit window temperature sensor faults and optical smoke detector activations were received."

Accounts of the cause of the crash, which involved 66 passengers and crew, have been contradictory, with the airline's initial statement that there had been a distress call subsequently withdrawn following a denial from the Egyptian military.

The Wall Street Journal suggests that although the cause remains unclear, Egyptian officials say terrorism is more likely than mechanical failure.

"It could have been a mechanical problem, but it happened so quickly I question that," said Michael McCaul, the chairman of the US's homeland security committee.

Officials caution it is still too early to say what happened.

Bel Trew, a Middle East reporter for The Times, tweeted that officials at Zeinhom morgue in Egypt said that 15 bags of human remains from the area had been received.

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Meanwhile, Egypt has deployed a remote-controlled submarine capable of descending up to 9,842ft to join the international consortium of ships and surveillance planes in the search for wreckage and the all-important black boxes, according to Reuters.

EgyptAir flight MS804: Debris, bodies and belongings found

20 May

Debris, bodies and passenger belongings from the missing Egyptair flight have been discovered in the Mediterranean, according to military search teams from Greece and Egypt.

The discovery was made five miles south of where Flight MS804 vanished from radar, Times journalist Anthee Carassava reports. The search for the wreckage and the crucial black box continues.

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Egypt has dispatched search crews from its navy, air force and army, who are working with Greek, French, British and American military support.

It comes after Egyptair earlier admitted that previous reports of debris discovery had been premature and that nothing had so far been found.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in a statement: "The presidency with utmost sadness and regret mourns the victims on aboard the EgyptAir flight who were killed after the plane crashed in the Mediterranean on its way back to Cairo from Paris."

Flight MS804 vanished from radar in the early hours of Thursday morning en route to Cairo from Paris. There were 66 passengers and crew on board, the majority of them Egyptian and French.

Yesterday, French President Francois Hollande confirmed that the plane had crashed in the Mediterranean, but cautioned that conclusions about the cause of the crash would only be drawn "when we have the truth about what happened".

Speculation about the cause of the accident is rife, with more experts now backing the theory that it was caused by a terrorist act.

John Goglia, a former US National Transportation Safety Board member, says early indications point more to a bomb than to a structural or mechanical failure.

Yesterday Greek investigators said the aircraft made two sharp turns before dropping out of the sky. "The fact that the pilot made those abrupt turns without broadcasting any maydays would indicate to me that something catastrophic like a device happened," Goglia told ABC News.

But several US intelligence officials told Reuters that no signs of an explosion had so far been detected during a review of satellite imagery. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

Security measures at all of the airports the plane travelled through on Tuesday and Wednesday are being scrutinised, The Guardian reports. These include Paris's Roissy-Charles de Gaulle and Cairo's International Airport as well as airports in Eritrea and Tunisia.

Meanwhile, the sole British passenger on board the missing flight has been named as 40-year-old Richard Osman, a Welsh-born geologist who was flying to Egypt for work.

Osman recently became a father for the second time – his French-born wife Aurelie gave birth to a daughter only last month. "Richard was so happy, and yet two weeks later he is no longer with us – it's an absolute tragedy," his brother Alastair told ITV News.

EgyptAir flight MS804: What we know about the missing plane

19 May

Possible debris from the missing EgyptAir flight that crashed into the sea has been spotted off the Greek island of Crete, as a major search operation continues and families await answers.

Flight MS804 was on its way to Cairo from France's Charles de Gaulle airport when it vanished from radar over the eastern Mediterranean with 66 people on board.

The airline says contact was lost around ten miles inside Egyptian airspace at 2.45am local time (1.45am BST) when the aircraft was travelling at 37,000ft.

'Sharp turns'

Greece's defence minister says the plane made "sharp turns" before it came down.

French and Egyptian officials have said the cause of the crash is still unknown. However, Egypt's aviation minister Sherif Fathy said terrorism was more likely than technical failure.

"We will draw conclusions when we have the truth about what happened," said French President Francois Hollande. "Whether it was an accident, or whether it was – and it's something that is on our minds – terrorism."

The BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner points out that it was only seven months ago that Islamic State planted a bomb that brought down a Russian passenger jet over the Sinai. However, the militant group has not claimed responsibility for this latest tragedy.

Gardner adds that investigators will be "keeping an open mind" and looking at all options.

Three children on board

The distraught relatives of those on board the plane have been anxiously waiting for news at the Paris and Cairo airports, where crisis centres have been set up.

There were 56 passengers, including three children, as well as seven crew members and three security personnel, on board the missing plane.

They were said to include 30 Egyptians, 15 French citizens, two Iraqis, one Briton, as well as people from Canada, Belgium, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Sudan, Chad and Portugal.

One woman whose daughter was a member of the cabin crew said people were frustrated by a lack of information from airport officials.

Uncertainty over distress call

The Egyptian navy, air force and coastguard were deployed to search the site where contact was lost. Greece also joined search and rescue efforts, sending aircraft and a frigate.

There is a still a great deal of uncertainty as to whether a distress call was sent. EgyptAir initially reported that one had been received from the plane's emergency devices.

"Confusingly, a statement posted on the official Facebook page of the Egyptian army says the army did not receive a distress signal from the plane," reports The Guardian.

If a distress call was sent, "it does suggest there was a moment at least in which the flight crew was able to activate an alarm", says the BBC's Hugh Schofield. "What was happening on board at that time is open to all kinds of speculation."

Prosecutors in Paris have launched an investigation into the crash and the French parliament has extended the two-month state of emergency that has been in place since the November terrorist attacks in the capital.

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