The head of Egypt’s commission investigating last week’s crash of a Russian airliner says the jet broke apart in the air, 23 minutes and 14 seconds after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh’s airport. But Ayman al-Muqaddam also says parts of the wreckage are still missing, and that it’s still too soon to determine a cause for the crash.
Citing a wide debris field that stretches more than 8 miles in the Sinai Peninsula, Muqaddam says his commission has concluded Metrojet 9268 broke up in the air — and that they’re still analyzing the last second of the cockpit voice recording, in which he says “a noise was heard.”
A spectral analysis will be used to figure out what caused that noise, Muqaddam says, delivering a news conference Saturday afternoon in Cairo, local time.
He also said that the last information on the plane’s flight data recorder shows that it was traveling at 281 knots, with the autopilot engaged.
Saying that his committee is considering “all possible scenarios,” Muqaddam also warned against jumping to conclusions about what caused the crash that killed all 224 people aboard. In recent days, U.S. and British officials have said they suspect a bomb may have been aboard the plane.
Russian officials have been skeptical of an Islamic State Sinai affiliate’s claim of responsibility for the crash. On the day of the tragedy, Russian officials raided Metrojet’s offices and opened a criminal inquiry. But on Friday, Russia joined Britain and other nations in suspending air service to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
Investigators from both Egypt and Russia have been working on the crash in the Sinai Peninsula, along with other experts from other countries, including France and Germany, Muqaddam says.
Today’s update follows reports that in August, a British passenger jet flying into Sharm el-Sheikh had taken evasive action after a missile passed within 1,000 feet of the airliner.
After that incident, “The British government investigated and concluded the incident had been linked to routine activity by the Egyptian military was not a ‘targeted attack,’ ” the BBC reports.
Earlier Saturday, Egyptian officials said they’re looking at surveillance camera footage from the Sharm el-Sheikh airport, “to determine if, for instance, anyone sneaked past security officials or the metal detectors,” Reuters reports.
And in another statement on the crash, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry complained that Egyptian authorities haven’t been provided with foreign intelligence related to the crash.
“The Egyptian authorities are directly connected to this matter,” Sameh Shoukry said, according to CNN. Apparently referring to the U.S. and British reports, he added, “We were hoping that this technical information would be handed over to us instead of widely passing it out to the media.”
Currently, British and Russian airlines are working to get thousands of vacationers out of Sharm el-Sheikh.
More than a thousand Britons were able to leave Friday — but passengers on those flights aren’t being allowed to check baggage. As a result, Egypt’s aviation agency says, they left behind more than 120 tons of luggage, adding to the already cramped conditions at the resort’s airport.