An EgyptAir aircraft carrying 66 passengers from Paris to Cairo collided in the Mediterranean Sea on Thursday morning. Egyptian and Greek authorities said the accident occurred nearby the Greek Island of Crete. It remains unknown if the crash was driven by a terror attack or a technical issue.
Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said the EgyptAir flight suddenly moved into spirals and lost altitude, before disappearing from radar. Moments later, it got into an area that is monitored by the Cairo’s air traffic control, said The Associated Press (AP).
The Airbus A320 was 10-15 miles inside the Egyptian air control area, at an altitude of 37,000 feet.
“It turned 90 degrees left and then a 360- degree turn toward the right,” said Kammenos to AP reporters.
Then it descended from 38,000 to 15,000 feet, until authorities lost its trace.
EGYPTAIR confirms that there are 56 passengers in addition to 10 cabin crew members onboard the aircraft.
— EGYPTAIR (@EGYPTAIR) May 19, 2016
the passengers' nationalities are as follows:
– 15 French
– 30 Egyptian
– 1 British
– 1 Belgium
– 2 Iraqis
– 1 Kuwaiti
– 1 Saudi
— EGYPTAIR (@EGYPTAIR) May 19, 2016
French President Francois Hollande said in a press conference that “no hypothesis can be ruled out, nor can any be favored over another.” Cairo is a very concurred city by Western tourists, who are attracted to archeological sites and hotels located nearby the Red Sea.
In October last year, a Russian Metrojet flight was reportedly impacted by a bomb, killing 224 people including passengers and crew. That attack was claimed by the terror group Islamic State. On that time, many countries temporarily canceled flights to the Egyptian city.
“The information that we have been able to gather — the prime minister, the members of the government, and of course the Egyptian authorities — unfortunately, confirm for us that this plane crashed at sea and has been lost,” President Hollande said at the Élysée Palace, as reported by the New York Times.
Greek air controllers were able to communicate with the pilot before the aircraft disappeared
Air traffic controllers in Greece were able to communicate with the pilot, as the Airbus A320 overpassed the island of Kea. No issues were reported at that moment, said Reuters. When it entered Cairo airspace, communication was lost and calls were not answered.
Kostas Litzerakis, head of head of Greece’s civil aviation department, told Reuters that the aircraft vanished from radar just moments after it left Greek airspace. A spokesperson at the Greece’s Civil Aviation said the plane was also searched by a military radar but it could not be found, said AP.
“During the transfer procedure to Cairo airspace, about seven miles before the aircraft entered the Cairo airspace, Greek controllers tried to contact the pilot but he was not responding,” Litzerakis was quoted as saying by Reuters.
France and Egypt are already investigating the crash
French authorities are already carrying out an investigation into the Airbus A320’s disappearance. The collective accident department of the Paris prosecutor’s office, alongside the national gendarme service, are in charge of the case, according to an AP report.
Egypt’s chief prosecutor Nabil Sadek said the transcontinental country is also conducting an “urgent investigation” over the crash. He has called the National Security Prosecutor to collaborate in the case.
Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathi said that people should refer to the case of the EgyptAir flight as a “missing plane” until debris is found. Greece has given a navy frigate, two military transport planes and a radar plane for the search and rescue operation.
Greece’s defense minister Panos Kammenos said the country would also offer a submarine and F-16 fighter jets, if necessary, as reported by AP. On the other hand, Egypt has provided a C-130 military transport plane and two F-16s.