An EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo with 66 people on board has crashed

A grounded EgyptAir plane.
A grounded EgyptAir plane.
Image: Reuters/Yiannis Kourtoglou
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This post was updated at 6:15am ET on May 20. 

Egyptian authorities say they have found debris and personal belongings from an EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo that disappeared on Thursday (May 19) with 66 people on board.

Wreckage from the plane and personal items were found in the Mediterranean Sea about 180 miles north of Alexandria, the Egyptian military confirmed on their Facebook page. The discovery marks the first major breakthrough in the ongoing investigation, Bloomberg reports.

At a press conference on Thursday, French president François Hollande said that all indications suggested that “sadly, it has crashed.” There are no further details about the potential cause—Egyptian prime minister Sherif Ismail said he “doesn’t rule out any possibilities” about why the plane went down.

The Cairo-based airline EgyptAir sent out a tweet at 4:57 AM local time saying that flight MS804, which departed about six hours earlier, had disappeared from its radar.

The airline lost contact with the flight about three hours after takeoff, it said on Twitter. The flight was at 37,000 feet and about 10 miles into Egyptian airspace, it said, and about 175 miles from the Egyptian seacoast.

Egypt and Russian officials have both speculated, without offering evidence, that the plane’s disappearance is more likely the result a terror attack than a technical failure. 

The head of Russia’s Federal Security Service Alexander Bortnikov said “in all likelihood it was a terror attack” that caused the crash, the AP reported. And Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathi reiterated that there was a “stronger” possibility that a terror attack caused the plane to go down than a technical failure, while answering questions at a press conference on Thursday.

Meanwhile, a Greek search team has found signs of a possible crash in the Mediterranean. A Greek military official told AFP that debris believed to be from flight MS804 was found 230 miles southeast of Crete. Greece has been working with Egypt to coordinate search efforts near the plane’s last known location. The US Navy has also reportedly joined the search:

Flightradar24, an organization that tracks real-time air traffic, shows the plane stopping short of its final destination and lists the flight as “canceled” in its database.

The plane, an Airbus A320, typically seats 150 to 180 passengers. This flight carried 56 passengers, three security officers, and seven crew members, EgyptAir said:

The airline added that 30 of the passengers were from Egypt, 15  from France, two from Iraq, and one each from Britain, Belgium, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan,  Chad, Portugal, Algeria, and Canada.

A statement from the Egyptian army claims that there was no distress signal sent by the plane before it vanished from radar; EgyptAir says that it received a signal from the plane’s emergency devices two hours after it lost contact.

Airbus said in a statement that the aircraft was delivered to the airline in 2003 and had logged 48,000 flight hours. In the 24 hours before it disappeared, a log of the plane’s flights showed it completed round-trips between Cairo and Asmara in Eritrea, Cairo and Tunis, and the first leg of the Cairo-to-Paris route.

French officials called an emergency meeting to discuss the incident. Egypt and Greece are working together to coordinate search efforts in the area of the plane’s last known location.