Sat | Jan 20, 2018

Egyptian plane with 66 aboard crashes; terrorism suspected

Published:Friday | May 20, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Relatives grieve as they wait in front of Egyptair in-flight service building where they were being held at Cairo International Airport, Egypt, yesterday.
An EgyptAir Airbus A320 with the registration SU-GCC taking off from Vienna International Airport, Austria.


An EgyptAir jetliner bound from Paris to Cairo with 66 people aboard crashed in the Mediterranean Sea early yesterday after swerving wildly in-flight, authorities said, and Egypt said it may have been a terrorist attack.

There were no immediate signs of survivors.

EgyptAir Flight 804, an Airbus A320 with 56 passengers and 10 crew members, went down about halfway between the Greek island of Crete and Egypt's coastline after take-off from Charles de Gaulle Airport, authorities said.

Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos said the plane spun all the way around and suddenly lost altitude just before vanishing from radar screens at approximately 2:45 a.m. Egyptian time.

He said it made a 908 left turn, then a full 3608 turn to the right, plummeting from 38,000 to 15,000 feet. It disappeared at about 10,000 feet, he said.

An Egyptian search plane later located two orange items believed to be from the aircraft, 230 miles southeast of Crete, a Greek military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in accordance with regulations.

In Cairo, Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathi cautioned that the disaster was still under investigation, but he said the possibility it was a terror attack "is higher than the possibility of having a technical failure".

Alexander Bortnikov, chief of Russia's top domestic security agency, said: "In all likelihood it was a terror attack."

The Egyptian military said it did not receive a distress call, and Egypt's state-run daily Al-Ahram quoted an unidentified airport official as saying the pilot did not send one. The absence of a distress call suggests that whatever sent the aircraft plummeting into the sea was sudden and brief.