Authorities find 'body part and suitcases' in search for missing EgyptAir plane

An Egyptian plane and ship searching in the Mediterranean Sea for the missing plane (Pic: Egyptian Defense Ministry)
An Egyptian plane and ship searching in the Mediterranean Sea for the missing plane (Pic: Egyptian Defense Ministry)

Egyptian authorities say they have spotted a body part, two seats and suitcases in the search for the missing EgyptAir plane, according to Greek officials.

Greek defence minister Panos Kammenos said the items were found in the search area in the Mediterranean, slightly to the south of where the aircraft vanished from radar signals early on Thursday.

He said the location was slightly north of where other debris was found on Thursday afternoon but authorities had been unable to identify that as having come from the missing Airbus A320.

EgyptAir flight 804 crashed while carrying 66 passengers and crew from Paris to Cairo.

A team of Egyptian investigators led by Ayman el-Mokadam - along with French and British teams and an expert from Airbus - will inspect what has been found, Egyptian officials said.

The plane fell off the radar at 2.45am local time on Thursday morning while it was crossing the Mediterranean.

The office of Egypt's president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, issued a statement expressing its condolences to the relatives of the 66 killed. It said the presidency "expressed its deep regret and sadness for the victims".

"God give great mercy and host them in his heaven," it added.

The statement marked the first official recognition by Egypt's government that the missing plane has crashed.

France, Greece, Italy, Cyprus and the UK have all joined the Egyptian search effort, Egypt's defence ministry said. Authorities had been scouring a wide area south of the Greek island of Crete.

It is not yet known what caused the crash.

Mr Kammenos said the plane swerved wildly before plummeting into the sea.

The Egyptian military said that no distress call was received from the pilot, and aviation minister Sherif Fathi said the likelihood the plane was brought down by a terror attack is "higher than the possibility of a technical failure".

But French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on France-2 television there was "absolutely no indication" of what caused the crash.

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".

Officials said the plane's erratic course suggested a number of possible explanations for the crash, including a catastrophic mechanical or structural failure, a bombing, or a struggle over the controls with a hijacker in the cockpit.

Egyptian security officials said they were running background checks on the passengers to see if any had links to extremists.

Pilot Mohammed Shoukair was experienced by Egyptian standards, with 6,275 flying hours. His co-pilot Ahmed Assem had 2,101 hours.

The European Space Agency said one of its satellites had spotted a possible oil slick in the area of the Mediterranean being searched.

The agency said its Sentinel-1A radar satellite detected a 1.2 mile-long slick about 25 miles south east of the plane's last known location.

The ESA said the information was passed to relevant authorities late on Thursday to aid the search operation, but cautioned that there was no guarantee the slick was from the missing aircraft.

It said the sister satellite Sentinel-2A will pass over the same area on Sunday and images will be studied for further clues.