The Latest: French investigators question Paris airport crew

CAIRO – The Latest on the crash of EgyptAir flight 804 (all times local):

6:20 p.m.

A French judicial official says French aviation investigators have begun to check and question all ground staff at the Charles-de-Gaulle airport who had either a direct or an indirect link to EgyptAir Flight 804, which took off Wednesday night from Paris and crashed into the Mediterranean.

The French official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak at this stage of the investigation, wouldn’t comment Friday on any initial results from the questioning.

Airport ground staff who worked on the plane or dealt with any goods going into its hold include baggage handlers, maintenance workers, gate agents, security guards, airline boarding employees and others. All of them carry “red badges” that provide access to restricted areas of the airport.

These badges are given for three years by local authorities, not by the airport, after several police investigations. Last year, dozens of red badges were withdrawn “for the phenomenon of radicalization.”

The judicial official says investigators are also poring over the list of the plane’s passengers and crew to look for criminal records or ties to terror watch lists.

By Philippe Sotto.


6 p.m.

A French Navy patrol boat is leaving its Mediterranean home port of Toulon to take part in the searches for traces of EgyptAir Flight 804 — and it is especially keen on helping to find the plane’s black boxes.

The 80-meter (262-foot) ship is equipped with sonar that can identify the sound of the underwater location beacons fitted to the crashed plane’s cockpit voice and flight data recorders.

The Navy says it will take two to three days for the vessel and its crew of 90 to arrive in the search area, which is roughly halfway between Egypt’s coastal city of Alexandria and the Greek island of Crete.

It may take some time to find the recorders — the water is 8,000 to 10,000 feet (2,440 to 3,050 metres) deep in the area where the jet is thought to have gone down early Thursday as it carried 66 people from Paris to Cairo.


5:45 p.m.

The U.S. is supporting the effort to find the missing EgyptAir Flight 804, which crashed into the Mediterranean Sea, with U.S. Navy P-3 Orion aircraft based at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily, Italy.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a spokesman at the Pentagon, said Friday that it’s a three-hour flight to the search site and the U.S. military is rotating airplanes in. One sortie was flown on Thursday and so far, two have been flown Friday. Davis says “thus far, none of our aircraft have reported sighting any debris.”

The Egyptian army says some wreckage has been found 290 kilometres (180 miles) north of the port city of Alexandria.

Davis would not comment on whether the U.S. military has been able to provide satellite imagery regarding the missing plane to Egyptian officials.


5:35 p.m.

The Vatican says the pope has conveyed his solidarity with Egypt’s president and the families of plane crash victims following the deadly EgyptAir crash.

The Vatican’s secretary of state said in a message to President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi that Pope Francis “wishes to assure you of his prayers and solidarity at this difficult time.”

The pope also offered “divine blessings of strength and peace” to the relatives of the passengers and those involved in the search-and-rescue operations to find the plane that crashed into the Mediterranean Sea early Thursday. The Airbus A320 was carrying 66 passengers and crew.


4:50 p.m.

An EgyptAir official says more wreckage of the missing plane has been found, including body parts, luggage and passengers’ seats.

A statement by the Civil Aviation Ministry quotes the unnamed official from EgyptAir as saying that the Egyptian armed forces on Friday retrieved more plane wreckage, including some of the passengers’ belongings, body parts, luggage, and plane seats.

The official says the search continues.

Earlier in the day, the Egyptian army said that wreckage was found 290 kilometres (180 miles) north of the port city Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast.


4:15 p.m.

A terror analyst who is in contact with members of the Islamic State group and other jihadist groups says there have been “no credible or even semi-credible” claims of responsibility for the crash of EgyptAir Flight 804.

Shiraz Maher at the International Center for the Study of Radicalisation in London says IS on Thursday released a 20-minute video about how they planned to conquer India. He says “if they had been involved in the crash, it would be very odd for them to have sent that video rather than boasting of the crash.”

The Airbus A320 was carrying 66 people from Paris to Cairo when is disappeared early Thursday over the southern Mediterranean.

Maher said both the Islamic State and al-Qaida affiliates have been quick to claim responsibility in the past for other plane crashes, though he said the wreckage is a better indicator of whether the crash was terror-related.

Maher also said it would be highly unusual to target a plane with mostly Muslim passengers, as EgyptAir’s leaked passenger manifest has suggested.


3:55 p.m.

Three European security officials say the passenger manifest for EgyptAir Flight 804 contained no known names on current terror watch lists.

The lists are often used by both European and American security and law enforcement agencies, said the officials who spoke Friday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the ongoing investigation.

The passenger manifest was leaked online and has not been officially verified by EgyptAir.

Flight 804 was carrying 66 people from Paris to Cairo when it disappeared early Thursday over the Mediterranean Sea. Officials say some apparent plane debris and an oil slick have been sighted in the region.

— by Paisley Dodds in London


3:40 p.m.

An Egyptian paper is quoting the country’s civil aviation minister as telling the relatives of the victims of the EgyptAir crash that there are “no survivors.” The daily Al-Masry Al-Youm says Sherif Fathi told the families on Friday that the Egyptian armed forces are doing their best to locate the wreckage and personal belongings of the victims.


2:55 p.m.

The European Space Agency says one of its satellites has spotted a possible oil slick in the same area of the Mediterranean Sea where EgyptAir Flight 804 disappeared.

The agency says its Sentinel-1A radar satellite detected the 2 kilometre- (1.2 mile-) long slick about 40 kilometres (25 miles) southeast of the plane’s last known location. It gave the co-ordinates as 33 32′ N / 29 13′ E.

ESA says the information was passed to relevant authorities late Thursday to aid their search-and-rescue operations. The agency cautioned that there was no guarantee the slick was from the missing aircraft.

It said the sister satellite Sentinel-2A will pass above the same area on Sunday and images will be studied for further clues as to the plane’s fate.


2:15 p.m.

Family members of four of the 66 victims who are believed to have died in the EgyptAir plane crash have held prayers for the dead in Cairo’s Sultan Hussein mosque.

Some of the relatives broke into tears as they prayed on Friday.

Among the victims of the crash of the EgyptAir flight 804 on Thursday were Salah Abu Laban, his wife Sahar Qouidar, their son Ghassan Abu Laban and daughter-in-law Reem al-Sebaei.

Their relative, Abdel-Rahman al-Nasry, told The Associated Press that “this is very hard for the family.”

A friend of the family, Magdi Badr, says: “We pray for the victims.”


1:15 p.m.

Greece’s defence minister says Greek authorities have received notification that Egyptian authorities had spotted a body part, two seats and suitcases during their search in the Mediterranean Sea for the crashed EgyptAir Flight 804.

Minister Panos Kammenos says Friday that the items were found in the search area slightly to the south of where the aircraft had vanished from radar signals early Thursday.

He said the location was slightly north of where some debris had been found on Thursday afternoon but authorities had been unable to identify that as having come from the missing aircraft.

The Airbus A320 was carrying 66 passengers and crew from Paris to Cairo when it disappeared.

11:35 p.m.

The Egyptian presidency has expressed its “deep sadness and extreme regret” over the deaths of the 66 passengers and crew members aboard EgyptAir Flight 804.

The Friday statement is the first official recognition of the tragic crash of the missing plane. It came minutes after the Egyptian army announced for the first time that it located plane debris and passengers’ personal belongings some 190 miles (306 kilometres) north of the city of Alexandria in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Airbus A320 plane was flying from Paris to Cairo when it disappeared early Thursday over the sea.


11:15 a.m.

Egyptian airport officials say that investigators will inspect the plane debris and personal belongings that the Egyptian army says it found 180 miles (290 kilometres) north of the city of Alexandria.

The officials said Friday that the chief Egyptian investigator Ayman el-Mokadam will be joined by French and British investigators as well as an expert from Airbus.

The Airbus 320 plane operated by EgyptAir was carrying 66 people from Paris to Cairo when it disappeared off radar at around 2.45 a.m. local time in Egypt.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.


11:00 a.m.

The Egyptian army says it has found wreckage of the missing EgyptAir flight 804, which crashed after disappearing from the radar while carrying 66 passengers and crew from Paris to Cairo.

The Egyptian army spokesman, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Samir, says in a statement posted on his Facebook page Friday that Egyptian jets and naval vessels participating in the search for the missing plane have found “personal belongings of the passengers and parts of the plane debris,” 180 miles (290 kilometres) north of the city of Alexandria.

The Airbus 320 lost contact at 2.45 a.m. local time Thursday morning.


10:15 a.m.

Egyptian airport officials say that three French and three British investigators and an Airbus technical expert have arrived in Cairo to join the investigation into what caused EgyptAir flight 804 to crash while carrying 66 people bound for Cairo from Paris.

Authorities are continuing to search a wide area to the south of the Greek island of Crete Friday. The plane dropped off the radar while crossing the Mediterranean at around 2.45 a.m. local time Thursday morning.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.


8:45 a.m.

France’s foreign minister and a top transport official say there is still no sign of what brought down a Paris-Cairo EgyptAir flight in the Mediterranean.

Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Friday on France-2 television there is “absolutely no indication” of the cause.

The junior minister for transport, Alain Vidalies, said on France-Info radio that “no theory is favoured” at this stage and urged “the greatest caution.”

A French military Falcon jet is helping in the search for debris. Vidalies said France could offer undersea search equipment and experts.

Amid fears it was an extremist attack, Vidalies defended security at Charles de Gaulle Airport, saying staff badges are revoked if there is the slightest security doubt.


8:15 a.m.

The search is continuing for missing EgyptAir flight 804, which disappeared from the radar while carrying 66 passengers and crew from Paris to Cairo.

Authorities are scouring a wide area south of the Greek island of Crete on Friday to search for wreckage, over 24 hours after the Airbus 320 lost contact.

The Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos says that the plane swerved wildly before plummeting into the sea.

The Egyptian military says that no distress call was received from the pilot. The country’s aviation minister Sherif Fathi says the likelihood the plane was brought down by a terror attack is “higher than the possibility of a technical failure.”

The distressed relatives of those on board have spent the night in a hotel in Cairo while they await news.