Egyptian authorities spot body part, debris in search for EgyptAir flight 804

EgyptAir flight 804 'swerved' before plunging, Greek Defense Minister says

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

Minister Panos Kammenos said 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.

It vanished from radar early Thursday as it flew to Cairo -- what should have been about a 3½-hour flight.

The Airbus A320 "swerved and then plunged" before descending into the Mediterranean, Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said.

Debris confusion

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 that the wreckage was found, the military announced the new findings 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.

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."

He 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," Ayrault 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.

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.

The search

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.

Other developments

-- 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.

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