BODY parts, passengers’ belongings and plane debris have been found in the Mediterranean as search teams begin to discover the grim remains of doomed jet MS804, according to The Sun. Seats, luggage and a 2km-long oil slick were among the discoveries as ships scour the southern Med for the EgyptAir plane that came down in the early hours of Thursday morning in a suspected terror attack.
Greece’s Defence Minister Panos Kammenos also confirmed a body part had been found 180 miles north of the Egyptian city of Alexandria. The news all but extinguishes any hope that frantic relatives have that any of the 66 on board the aircraft survived. The plane’s black box will hold the key to unravelling the increasingly-mysterious reason for the jet slamming into the sea on the way from Paris to Cairo.
Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi all-but confirmed the news to families by offering his condolences to relatives of those on board. Experts are struggling to explain how the doomed jet came down as a number of theories emerge – most alleging a terrorist plot.
And US intelligence chiefs at the Pentagon entered the fray last night to declare they could find no evidence of an explosion on board the plane, which was carrying 66 passengers including Briton Richard Osman. ISIS have not claimed responsibility for the crash.
And one security analyst said it was odd for the group to have instead posted a video urging followers to “conquer India”. Shiraz Maher at the International Center for the Study of Radicalisation in London said: “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.”
French investigators arrived in Cairo last night as search teams – including one from the UK – continued to scour the Mediterranean near the Greek island of Karpathos. Details of those who perished in the crash have now started to emerge. London-based Frenchman Quentin Heslouin was on the flight travelling with his 75-year-old father.
Friends paid tribute to the vice president of City of London-based company Earthport. Samar Ezz Eldin, an air stewardess and modern languages graduate, was named by investigators. In a chilling twist the 27-year-old had coincidentally posted an image of an air stewardess walking through ankle-deep water as a plane plunges into the sea behind her barely two years ago.
Tragically the plane’s captain, Mohamed Shoukair, 37, from Giza, had only days earlier celebrated his promotion to the rank of senior pilot. Co-pilot Mohammad Mamdouh Assem fulfilled a boyhood dream to become a pilot and was helped to achieve his ambition with the help of his mother who invested all of her life savings into his training.
The plane’s cabin manager Mervat Zakaria had worked for the airline for 30 years after starring in Egyptian soap opera Abu El Ela El-Bashery. Allegations of a plot by extremists to recruit staff at French airports also emerged on Friday. The lawyer who represented 70 airport staff who had their security passes revoked following the Paris terror attacks in November made the claim on the BBC’s Today programme.
Eric Moucay said: “There is effectively recruitment going at the airports, that’s clear. There are people who are being radicalised in some of the trade unions. The authorities have their work cut out with this problem.” Flight MS804, which took off from Paris, was about to start its descent into Cairo from 37,000ft when it made “sudden swerves”.
A life-or-death struggle between hijackers and the crew as the plane plummeted from the sky was emerging last night as the most likely cause. Flight data yesterday appeared to suggest the plane entered a corkscrew descent as it dropped 20,000ft from its cruising altitude of 37,000ft before falling into the sea.
Attention also turned to the plane’s journeys that day. It was revealed how the jet had started its first of five flights in the troubled state of Eritrea. Airport security in the East African nation that borders Somalia is described as a “joke” by UK intelligence sources. From Eritrea it had returned to Cairo before heading to the capital of Tunisia, Tunis, on to Cairo once more, and then to Paris’ Charles de Gaulle.
The plane disappeared from radar on its way back from the French capital. A leading British aviation chief today suggested the incident could have been an ‘inside job’. Mike Vivian, who is the former head of flight operations for the Civil Aviation Authority, said: “It is a worry that has been in security minds for a long time now.
“It is a major worry and I do not think it is insignificant that lots of people at Paris Charles de Gaulle lost their airside pass because of radicalisation. “The question has to be how did they get their in the first place and what sort of screening is going on vis-a-vis these airport employees.” Another theory emerging is that the plane could have been brought down by a timed-explosive device, similar to one used in the Lockerbie crash in 1988.
Phil Giles, a former investigator with the UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch, said: “It’s a real mystery, but it sounds at this early stage that there could have been a device, placed on the plane earlier at another airport in some kind of Lockerbie situation. “It may have been placed on board at Paris, though security is very tight there already. We may see a focus on the air-side staff there in the coming days.”
The Airbus A320’s black box flight recorder now holds the key to revealing what happened early yesterday. Technical faults have not been ruled out but an IS terrorist bomb smuggled on board is also being considered. One of the victims feared dead in the crash was yesterday named as British father-of-two Richard Osman.
The Jersey-based geologist had only weeks ago welcomed his second daughter into the world and was described as being “deliriously happy” at the news. Richard had been on his way to start a job in the Egyptian capital and was described as “kind and loving” by his brother Alastair last night. The University of Swansea PhD student said: “Aureilie [Richard’s wife] had warned him to be careful but he took the view that it’s never going to happen to you. He just laughed it off.
“We kept in touch regularly and I would speak to him a couple times a month but he never mentioned the possible threat of terrorism on his flights across the Mediterranean to me. “But the family was worried because Isis and groups like them don’t think that any of their victims have family members or a past or a history of hopes and dreams.
“My sister Anna mentioned the dangers to me. “Richard was such a fit and busy person who was always on the go that I can’t believe he has gone.” Distraught families of passengers and crew were ushered into a private area at Cairo Airport as news broke.
Some said they were being kept in the dark over what had happened. It was announced that 30 Egyptians, 15 French, two Iraqis and individuals from Canada, Belgium, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Sudan, Chad and Portugal. Ayman Nassar, a relative of one of the passengers, said: “They told us the plane had disappeared and that they’re still searching for it and not to believe any rumours.”
Another man wept with his hands on his face and said: “How long will Egypt live if human lives are so cheap?”