EgyptAir flight 804 from Paris to Cairo crashed with 66 passengers and crew on board in the Mediterranean Sea off the Greek island of Crete early Thursday morning. Now, Greek defense minister Panos Kammenos said EgyptAir flight 804 made abrupt turns and suddenly lost altitude just before vanishing from radar at around 2.45 a.m. Egyptian time.
“It turned 90 degrees left and then a 360 degree turn toward the right, dropping from 38,000 to 15,000 feet and then it was lost at about 10,000 feet,” Kammenos said, adding the aircraft was 10-15 miles inside the Egyptian FIR and at an altitude of 37,000 feet.
Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s top domestic security agency, said on Thursday that “in all likelihood it was a terror attack.” Mr. Bortnikov, the head of the Federal Security Service, called for a joint action to track down those responsible for that “monstrous attack.”
Last October, a Russian plane flying from Egypt crashed into the Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board. The Kremlin said it was brought down by an explosive device, though some in the world community remained skeptical. Now, Egyptian officials are not ruling anything out but are also cautious in their public statements.
“I’m not excluding any theory,” Egyptian Minister of Aviation Sherif Fathy said. “I’m also going to use the term ‘vanished’ plane until we find the wreckage of the plane if there is any wreckage and until we know what happened for sure.
“There are hypotheses and theories about what happened but we want to be professional,” he said. “We have to make sure we find out where the plane is and then we can start to do our job of determining the cause of this incident.”
EgyptAir said the Airbus A320 vanished 10 miles (16 kilometers) after it entered Egyptian airspace, around 280 kilometers (175 miles) off Egypt’s coastline north of the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria. The airline said the Egyptian military received an emergency signal from the aircraft’s Emergency Locator Transmitter, or ELT, which is a battery powered device designed to automatically give out a signal in the event of a sudden loss of altitude or impact.
However, the Egyptian military denied it had received a distress call. Egypt’s state-run daily Al-Ahram quoted an airport official as saying the pilot did not send one, though the newspaper did not identify the official.
Flight 804 was carrying 56 passengers, including one child and two babies, three security staff and seven crew members, officials said. Minister Fathy said identities would not be released until relatives could be contacted, but described those those on board as including 15 French passengers, 30 Egyptians, one Briton, two Iraqis, one Kuwaiti, one Saudi, one Sudanese, one Chadian, one Portuguese, one Algerian and one Canadian.
Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail told reporters at Cairo airport that it was too early to say whether the crash was a result of a technical issue or a terror attack. The Egyptian government and economy have suffered as a result of recent terror attacks. The country relies heavily on tourism for economic growth and development.
“We cannot rule anything out.”