EgyptAir crash: Smoke detected inside jet before tragedy, say investigators

By: | Published: May 21, 2016 9:05 PM

Smoke was detected inside the EgyptAir jet minutes before it crashed into the Mediterranean Sea with 66 people on board, investigators said today, as searchers scoured the waters to find the plane's black boxes that could help solve the mystery surrounding the crash.

Smoke was detected inside the EgyptAir jet minutes before it crashed into the Mediterranean Sea with 66 people on board, investigators said today, as searchers scoured the waters to find the plane’s black boxes that could help solve the mystery surrounding the crash.

Smoke alerts were triggered in the toilet and the aircraft’s electrics, just minutes before the signal was lost, according to data published on air industry website the Aviation Herald, which said it had received flight data filed through the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) from three independent channels.

France’s aviation safety agency said the plane had transmitted automated messages indicating smoke in the cabin before it crashed on Thursday en route from Paris to Cairo.

Egypt’s military released today what it said were images of wreckage and personal belongings found in the search for EgyptAir Flight 804. The pictures of wreckage recovered so far included a pink bag decorated with butterflies, a life vest, shredded seat covers and mangled debris with ‘EgyptAir’ name.

Searchers were trying to locate the crucial black boxes that could shed light on the crash.

Planes and vessels from Egypt, Greece, Britain, France, the US and Cyprus continued searching a wide area of the eastern Mediterranean today.

Meanwhile, French authorities said no theory on the cause of the EgyptAir crash has been ruled out.

“All theories are being examined and none is favoured,” Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told a news conference after meeting with relatives of passengers who were aboard the doomed Airbus A320.

“The reports circulating here and there, which by the way are sometimes contradictory, give rise too often to nearly definitive conclusions,” Ayrault said.

“Finding the plane is of course the priority, along with finding the black boxes to analyse them, which will allow us to answer legitimate questions,” he said.

Among the passengers were 30 Egyptians, 15 French, two Iraqis, and one person each from the UK, Belgium, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Chad, Portugal, Algeria and Canada.

Though nothing had been confirmed about the reasons for the crash both France and Egypt have come under attack from ISIS terror group in the past year.

The Herald said the system showed that at 02:26 local time on Thursday (05:56 IST) smoke was detected in the toilet of the Airbus A320. Just a minute later – at 05:57 IST – there was an avionics smoke alert.

The last ACARS message was sent at 05:59 IST, the air industry website said, and the contact with the plane was lost four minutes later, which was 02:33 local time.

ACARS is used to routinely download flight data to the airline operating the aircraft.

“(The data) doesn’t tell us anything, whether it’s an explosion because of a bomb or because of a mechanical fault, but immediately it narrows down the area that we’re looking at,” CNN aviation analyst Richard Quest said.

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