EgyptAir plane crash: Terror attack not ruled out

... This is what happened to the EgyptAir MS804 airline that crashed in the Mediterranean while carrying 66 people; debris found but cause unknown

Cairo: An EgyptAir plane en route from Paris to Cairo carrying 66 people crashed in the Mediterranean Sea yesterday after swerving sharply with Egypt saying the possibility of a terror attack or a technical error could not be ruled out.

A relative of a passenger cries as family members are transported by bus to a gathering point at Cairo airport yesterday. (Right) A relative of a victim of the EgyptAir flight crash makes a phone call at Charles de Gaulle Airport outside Paris yesterday. Pics/AP & AFP
A relative of a passenger cries as family members are transported by bus to a gathering point at Cairo airport yesterday. (Right) A relative of a victim of the EgyptAir flight crash makes a phone call at Charles de Gaulle Airport outside Paris yesterday. Pics/AP & AFP

Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said it was too early to say whether a technical problem or a terror attack caused the plane to crash. “We cannot rule anything out,” he told reporters at Cairo airport.

Relatives of a passenger who was flying aboard the EgyptAir plane cries at Cairo airport yesterday. Pic/AFP
Relatives of a passenger who was flying aboard the EgyptAir plane cries at Cairo airport yesterday. Pic/AFP 

Debris found
Signs of possible wreckage were found yesterday off the Greek island of Crete, a Greek military spokesman said. “There have been finds southeast of Crete, inside the Cairo flight information area,” general staff spokesman Vassilis Beletsiotis said while adding that an Egyptian C-130 plane had spotted the floating objects, and ships that would be sent for investigation.

A file photo of the EgyptAir plane MS804 at Cairo international Airport that crashed in the Mediterranean. Pic/AFPA file photo of the EgyptAir plane MS804 at Cairo international Airport that crashed in the Mediterranean. Pic/AFP

EgyptAir said a “distress call” had been received from the plane two hours after it disappeared from radar. The Egyptian military, however, denied that any distress calls were received. Egyptian military search and rescue teams were combing the area to locate the debris of the plane. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault offered to send military planes and boats to join the Egyptian search for wreckage.

Before crash
The Airbus A320 was flying at 37,000 feet when it disappeared shortly after entering Egyptian airspace at 2:45 am local time. EgyptAir Flight 804 lost contact with radar after it entered Egyptian airspace, around 280 kilometres off the country’s coastline north of the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria.

Terror attack?
Both France and Egypt have been leading targets for terrorists in recent months. In October, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for bombing an A321 plane belonging to Russian charter company Metrojet that crashed into the Sinai desert on its way from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg, killing 224 passengers and crew. Experts say the chances of a mechanical malfunction in the case of yesterday’s EgyptAir disappearance are slim.

Workhorse of the skies
The Airbus A320, the model of the EgyptAir plane, is one of the most common planes in service around the world today. Similar to the Boeing 737, the single-aisle, twin-engine jet is used to connect cities that are between one and five hours apart. The A320 is generally considered one of the safest passenger planes in service. Airbus says it has had 11 crashes with fatalities. Overall, the A320 registered just 0.14 fatal accidents per million takeoffs, according to a Boeing safety analysis published last year.

On board

56 passengers
30 Egyptians, 15 French, 
2 Iraqis, 1 Briton, 1 Kuwaiti, 1 Saudi, 1 Sudanese, 
1 Chadian, 1 Portuguese, 
1 Belgian, 1 Algerian, 
1 Canadian
7 crewmembers
3 security personnel

22,000 feet
The height from which the flight plunged

EgyptAir’s dark history

>> March 2016: An EgyptAir flight from Alexandria to Cairo was hijacked and forced to divert to Cyprus. The hijacker, who demanded to see his ex-wife, had claimed he was wearing an explosive vest, which turned out to be fake.

>> July 2011: Fire broke out in the cockpit of a Cairo-Jeddah flight. Seven people of the 317 passengers and crew were injured and the aircraft was damaged beyond repair.

>> May 2002: A flight, en route from Cairo to Tunis, crashed near Tunis-Carthage International airport during a sandstorm. 14 of the 56 people onboard died.

>> October 1999: A flight from Los Angeles to Cairo crashed into the Atlantic Ocean 60 miles off the US coast. All 217 people onboard were killed. A probe revealed that the first officer deliberately caused the crash for unknown reasons.

>> November 1985: Egyptian forces stormed a flight en route to Athens at Malta airport. Three armed hijackers killed five hostages when local authorities refused to refuel the aircraft.

>> December 1976: A Bangkok bound flight crashed into an industrial complex in the Thai capital. All 52 onboard and 19 on the ground were killed in the crash. Probe revealed pilot error as the cause.

>> March 1972: A flight from Cairo to Aden in South Yemen crashed into the Shamsan Mountains on approach to Aden killing all 30 onboard.

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