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One week on, EgyptAir crash cause still unclear

May 26, 2016

A French private firm specializing in marine wrecks has joined the search for EgyptAir flight MS804's black boxes. The clock is ticking to find the boxes, whose signal batteries will run out after 30 days.

People light candles during a commemoration ceremony for the 66 victims of EgyptAir flight MS804 crash
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. El Raai

One week after EgyptAir's Airbus A320 crashed into the Mediterranean Sea, investigators are still searching for the plane's two black boxes, which would give a clearer picture of flight MS804's final moments.

Egyptian and French officials hired the French company Alseamar to assist with the deep sea search.

"We sought the help of the French company due to its distinguished potential in the search and detection of signals," Ayman al-Moqadem, head of air accident investigations, told reporters on Thursday.

"Another company is being hired in order to boost the search operation in more than one location," he said, adding that the search area has been reduced to 5 kilometers (3.1 miles).

The second private company being hired is reportedly the Mauritius-based Deep Ocean Search (DOS), which is able to operate in depths of up to 6,000 meters (20,000 feet) and has a robot that is capable of mapping the seabed.

The black boxes are believed to be 3,000 meters down, which places them on the edge for hearing and locating signals emitted by the boxes.

Search crews are racing against the clock to recover the boxes, as the fight data and voice recorders transmit locator "pings" stop after around 30 days.

Al-Moqadem also said on Thursday that investigators received radar images and an audio recording from Greece with a conversation between the plane's pilot and air traffic controllers as the plane crossed Greek airspace.

The images also trace the flight course on the Greek radars, the official added.

DW Flightpath for EgyptAir MS804

Terrorism not ruled out

On May 19, the Airbus A320 vanished shortly after leaving Greek airspace on its trip from Paris to Cairo with 66 people on board - including 56 passengers, seven crew members and three security personnel.

Wreckage from the plane including body parts and passengers' luggage have been recovered.

Sources in the investigation committee said the EgyptAir jet did not show technical problems before taking off from Paris. During flight, it sent signals that showed the engines were functioning but then detected smoke and suggested a raise in temperature at the co-pilot's window.

French and Egyptian officials said it is too soon to determine what caused the disaster although a terror attack on the Airbus A320 has not been ruled out.

A report on the crash will be issued by investigators one month after the plane's crash date, said Al-Moqadem.

rs/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)