CAIRO (TIP): An EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo with 66 passengers and crew on board crashed in the Mediterranean Sea off the Greek island of Crete early May 19 morning, Egyptian and Greek officials said.
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.
EgyptAir Flight 804 was lost from radar at around 2:45am local time when it was flying at 37,000 feet, according to the airline. It 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. Egyptian aviation officials said the plane crashed and that a search for debris was now underway.
The “possibility that the plane crashed has been confirmed,” as the plane hasn’t landed in any of the nearby airports, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Konstantinos Lintzerakos, director of Greece Civil Aviation Authority, gave a roughly similar account to that given by EgyptAir. In comments to the private Antenna television, he said Greek air traffic controllers were in contact with the pilot who reported no problems as the aircraft cruised at 37,000 feet, traveling at 519 mph (830 kilometers per hour).
The controllers tried to make contact with the pilot 10 miles (16 kilometers) before the plane exited the Greek Flight Information Region, or FIR. The pilot did not respond, he said, and they continued to try to speak to him until 3:29 am local time (2:29 a.m. Egyptian time) when the plane disappeared from the radar inside Egypt’s FIR, 11 kilometers (7 miles) southeast of the island of Crete.
Egypt’s state-run newspaper Al-Ahram quoted an airport official as saying the pilot did not send a distress call, and that last contact with the plane was made 10 minutes before it disappeared from radar. It did not identify the official.
Egyptian military aircraft and navy ships were taking part in a search operation off Egypt’s Mediterranean coast to locate the debris of the plane, which was carrying 56 passengers, including one child and two babies, and 10 crew members. The pilot had more than 6,000 flight hours.
Greece also joined the search and rescue operation, officials at the Hellenic National Defense General Staff said.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault offered to send military planes and boats to join the Egyptian search for wreckage.
“We are at the disposition of the Egyptian authorities with our military capacities, with our planes, our boats to help in the search for this plane,” he said. He spoke after French President Francois Hollande held an emergency meeting at the Elysee Palace. (AP)