Egypt Launches Criminal Probe Tied to Egyptair Crash

 - December 15, 2016, 10:45 AM
An Egyptair Airbus A320 sits parked at Pulkovo Airport in St. Petersburg, Russia. (Photo: Flickr: Creative Commons (BY-SA) by Anna Zvereva)

Egyptian authorities have launched a criminal investigation tied to the crash of an Egyptair Airbus A320 into the Mediterranean Sea in May after announcing on Thursday they had found traces of explosives on some of the recovered bodies, according to multiple news agencies.

The findings would appear to conflict with theories that an electrical fire triggered by a system failure might have caused the crew to lose control of the airplane while on a scheduled flight between Paris and Cairo. The pilots did not declare an emergency before the airplane turned 90 degrees to the left and then 360 degrees right before plummeting from 37,000 feet into the sea, killing all 66 passengers and crewmembers. 

Information downloaded from the flight data recorder (FDR) retrieved from the wreckage had already confirmed the existence of smoke in the airplane’s lavatory and avionics bay before its rapid descent, according to Egypt’s Civil Aviation Ministry. The Egyptian authorities also reported that recovered wreckage of the front of the aircraft showed signs of high temperature damage and soot.

Those findings appeared consistent with ACARS data transmitted as the pilots apparently lost control of the airplane. The series of messages, sent over a period of three minutes, also relayed window sensor indications and problems with the autopilot and flight control system.

Egyptian aviation security practices have come under scrutiny since a Metrojet A321 crashed soon after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh on its way to St. Petersburg, Russia, in October last year, killing all 224 passengers and crewmembers. In that case, a faction of the ISIS terrorist group claimed responsibility for the explosion that caused the airplane to disintegrate in midair. Less than three weeks later, Russian authorities concluded that, in fact, an explosive device did bring down the A321.