(CNN) — Egyptian forces found wreckage from an EgyptAir flight that crashed in the Mediterranean with 66 people aboard, the military said.
Parts of the aircraft and passenger belongings were discovered Friday near the coastal city of Alexandria, the Egyptian military said in a statement.
“The searching, sweeping and the retrieval process is underway,” military spokesman Brig. Gen. Mohammad Samir said.
The plane was carrying 56 passengers and 10 crew members when it left Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport for Cairo late Wednesday night.
It disappeared from radar early Thursday as it flew to Cairo — what should have been about a 3½-hour flight.
The military said the wreckage was 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of the coastal city of Alexandria.
A day earlier, the airline’s vice chairman said wreckage of the plane had been found at sea, but those reports turned out to be false.
When searchers got close to the debris, they realized it was not from the missing airliner, Ahmed Adel said Thursday.
Hours after Adel retracted his statement Thursday, the military announced the sighting of the wreckage Friday.
“The presidency, with utmost sadness and regret, mourns the victims on aboard the EgyptAir flight who were killed after the plane crashed in the Mediterranean,” the Egyptian presidency said in a statement.
The airline also expressed its condolences.
“EgyptAir sincerely conveys its deepest sorrow to the families and friends of the passengers onboard Flight MS804,” it tweeted.
What went wrong?
While no theory has been completely ruled out, speculation on what caused the flight to crash centered on the possibility of a terror attack.
At some point before dropping off radar, the plane swerved 90 degrees to the left and then made a 360-degree turn to the right before plunging first to 15,000 feet, then 10,000 feet, Greek officials said.
“It’s very difficult to come up with a scenario that jibes with some sort of catastrophic failure. (The evidence so far) leads us down the road to a deliberate act,” said Miles O’Brien, a CNN aviation analyst.
Egyptian officials pointed to technical failures and terror as possible explanations.
“But if you analyze this situation properly, the possibility of having a different action aboard, of having a terror attack, is higher than having a technical problem,” said Sharif Fathi, the nation’s aviation minister.
French officials urged caution, saying it’s still too early to draw conclusions.
“All assumptions are reviewed but none is favored,” Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told France 2 network Friday. “We have absolutely no indication on the causes of this event.”
Ayrault said his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry was not leaning toward terrorism as the cause of the crash.
“He said he wanted all possibilities to be examined,” he told France 2.
Ayrault defended security measures at the Paris airport, saying they have been intensified since the November terror attacks.
Controllers tried to reach pilot
Shortly before the aircraft was scheduled to exit Greek airspace early Thursday, controllers tried to reach the pilots to transfer control to Cairo authorities. Despite repeated attempts, they received no response, Greece’s Aviation Authority said.
Radar soon lost the plane’s signal, just after it entered Egyptian airspace, the authority said.
The Airbus A320 “swerved and then plunged” before descending into the Mediterranean, Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said.
Passengers and crew
Most of the passengers are Egyptian — 30 in all. But also aboard are 15 French citizens, including an infant. There were also passengers from Iraq, Britain, Belgium, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Chad, Portugal, Canada and Algeria, according to the Egyptian aviation minister.
Canada said two of its citizens were on the plane.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the British passenger had Australian citizenship as well. It is unclear whether any other passengers were dual citizens.
Greece, France, the United States and other nations were searching about 130 nautical miles southeast of Karpathos, Greek aviation officials said.
As crews searched, somber relatives gathered in Cairo and Paris airports, seeking word on their loved ones.
— The pilots have been identified as Mohamed Said Shoukair, who was the plane’s captain, and first officer Mohamed Mamdouh Ahmed Assem, according to an official close to the investigation and a security source.
— The head flight attendant was identified as Mirvat Zaharia Zaki Mohamed.
— The plane’s captain had about 6,000 flying hours, Adel said. Maintenance checks on the plane had reported “no snags.”
— Checks of the passenger manifest have so far resulted in no hits on terror watch lists, officials with knowledge of the investigation said.
— An initial theory is that the plane was downed by a bomb, two U.S. officials told CNN. Officials said the theory could change, with one senior administration official cautioning it is not yet supported by a “smoking gun.”
— The jet had routine maintenance checks in Cairo before it left for Paris, the airline said. Earlier Wednesday, the jet was also in Eritrea and Tunisia, data from flight tracking websites show.
— The plane has been part of EgyptAir’s fleet since November 2003, according to Adel.
What we know about passengers and crew on EgyptAir flight 804
There were 66 of them on board. Middle Easterners, Europeans and Canadians. Adults and children.
The search and rescue mission for the missing EgyptAir Flight 804 has turned into a search and recovery one, the airline said. Officials aren’t optimistic they will find anyone alive.
Until it has informed all family members, EgyptAir says it won’t release the names of those who were on the plane.
Here’s what we know so far of those aboard the Airbus when it crashed into the Mediterranean Sea on its way from Paris to Cairo.
They included 30 Egyptians, 15 French and two Canadians, as well as one person from the following countries: Algeria, Belgium, Chad, Iraq, Kuwait, Portugal, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. A British national that was on board the flight was also a dual-citizen of Australia.
Ten people comprised the crew.
Mohamed Said Shoukair
Shoukair piloted missing EgyptAir Flight 804, according to an official close to the investigation and a security source. His Facebook page says he has been with EgyptAir since 2004 and lives in Cairo.
“He’s a very well-trained, highly disciplined captain,” EgyptAir Vice President Ahmed Adel said.
“He has a good reputation and was a good colleague of mine.”
The captain had 6,275 flying hours, including 2,101 on the A320 — the aircraft model used for the flight.
Mohamed Mamdouh Ahmed Assem
Assem is the first officer on EgyptAir Flight 804, according to an official close to the investigation and a security source. He lives in Cairo. By Thursday evening, his Facebook account had been turned into a memorial page and some of his friends had changed their profile picture to images of him.
Assem had 2,766 flying hours under his belt.
Mirvat Zaharia Zaki Mohamed
Mohamed is the purser, or head flight attendant of EgyptAir Flight 804, according to an official close to the investigation and a security source.
The 56 passengers included two infants and a child.
State-run Kuwait New Agency reported that Kuwaiti citizen Abdulmohsen Al-Muteiri was one of the passengers on EgyptAir flight 804. The Assistant Foreign Minister for Consular Affairs confirmed the information with the news agency.
Helal, 40, is a director of a Procter & Gamble production facility in Amiens, France. He was on a personal trip to Egypt, according to the American consumer goods company, to visit his sick father.
“He possessed exceptional qualities that made a great leader, a great technician, a great plant director,” Christophe Duron, Proctor & Gamble President said.
“The most important quality about Ahmed is his personal quality. I had regular relations with Ahmed. He gave you the impression that you (knew) him for a long time. He makes you at ease,” he said.
Others at the company described him as a warm person who was “always smiling.”
Helal started his career in the U.S. and worked in Cairo but had taken the position at the Amiens plant two years ago.
A priest who identified himself as a friend of Adib’s described him as a charitable businessman in his late 40s.
“He was like a brother and a son to me,” the priest said as he left Cairo International Airport’s crisis center.
Joao David e Silva
Silva specializes in emerging markets and worked for the Portuguese construction company Mota-Engil. The 62-year-old married father of four is based in Johannesburg because of his job although his family lives in Lisbon, a Portuguese government source said. Without revealing his name, the company confirmed one of its employees was on the flight.
The crew members included three security personnel, two cockpit crew and five cabin crew, the airline said.