Breaking News Emails
Egypt's military said it found the first pieces of a missing EgyptAir passenger plane — though there were no signs officials were any closer to solving the puzzle of what sent the aircraft falling out of the sky.
Families of the 66 people on board Flight MS804 have been waiting in anguish for news following 24 hours of conflicting information and rampant speculation over what happened to the aircraft.
Terrorism has been cited as a potential cause — though officials have cautioned against speculation and there has been no credible claim of responsibility from any group.
Egyptian army spokesman Brig. Gen. Mohammed Samir said on his verified Facebook page Friday that his military's search planes and vessels had discovered parts of the Airbus A320 — along with some passengers' belongings.
The military is certain the debris comes from Flight MS804, Samir told NBC News by phone, adding that all wreckage will be brought back to Egypt for investigation.
The items were found about 180 miles north of the Egyptian city of Alexandria.
A body part and suitcases were recovered, according to Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos. He told a press conference that Egyptian authorities had informed Greek authorities of the discoveries.
An unnamed EgyptAir official later said more wreckage had been found. An EgyptAir statement distributed by the Civil Aviation Ministry quoted the unnamed official as saying that Egypt's military had discovered more debris, body parts, passengers' seats and luggage from Flight MS804.
There was no immediate comment from the Egyptian military on any findings.
EgyptAir — which sowed confusion after prematurely saying debris was found — has expressed "deep sorrow for the accident" and offered "condolences to the families of the victims."
The president of Egypt also offered condolences on Friday, in what amounted to the first official government acknowledgement that the passengers had died.
Search planes have been combing the Mediterranean Sea for the downed jet amid an ongoing hunt for the cause of its demise.
The jet was en route from Paris to Cairo when it disappeared from radar shortly after entering Egyptian airspace early Thursday.
EgyptAir's announcement that afternoon saying wreckage had been found near the Greek island of Karpathos turned out to be premature — the airline retracted the statement hours later in an interview with CNN.
"We stand corrected on that," EgyptAir Vice President Ahmed Adel told the network.
A Greek C-130 aircraft roared off the runway on the island of Crete early Friday, joining the Egyptian-led search for the missing plane. Egypt's military said it was continuing to search for more debris.
In addition to the Greek and Egyptian assets, the U.S. has lent P-3 Orion aircraft and the U.K. has sent a carrier to the area.
The French navy, meanwhile, sent a Falcon maritime surveillance aircraft and deployed a patrol ship from the city of Toulon that was equipped with sonar that can identify the sound of the underwater location beacons fitted to the crashed plane's black boxes.
A satellite spotted a potential oil slick about 25 miles from the plane's last known location, according to the European Space Agency.
It cautioned there was "no guarantee" that the slick was linked to Flight MS804 but said it has passed information related to satellite image on to authorities in support of the search operations.
While planes, helicopters, ships and satellites scoured the waters of the Mediterranean, the quest for answers continued.
Egypt's Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathy said terrorism was more likely to blame for the plane's disappearance than a technical fault.
“The possibility of having a different action or of having a terror attack is higher than the possibility of having a technical error,” Fathy told reporters Thursday.
Kammenos said it appeared the Airbus A320 swerved sharply — 90 degrees to the left, then 360 degrees to the right — before plunging more than 20,000 feet. Then it was gone.
Egypt is leading the investigation — with assists from Greece and others. Three French investigators arrived in Cairo early Friday along with a technical expert from Airbus, the plane's manufacturer.
The team met Friday afternoon with Egyptian investigators to "start coordinating," a spokesman for BEA — the French aviation investigation authority — told NBC News.
The White House said it "stands ready" to provide "full support and resources" to Egypt and France as they investigate.
While Egypt expressed confidence in its security measures, the incident was the second aviation disaster involving the country in less than a year.
ISIS claimed responsibility for downing a Russian passenger plane over Egypt's Sinai peninsula in October.
There were no immediate moves to step up aviation security in Egypt in wake of Thursday's incident, though Los Angeles International Airport took measures to do so.
Relatives of the passengers waited in Cairo hotels for news of their loves ones' fates. Emotions ran high as family members arrived at the airport overnight, with police intervening after some turned on journalists gathered there.
The victims of the crash included citizens of 12 nations — including Egypt, France, the U.K. and Canada.
In Cairo on Friday, preparations were underway to mourn the 30 Egyptians killed in the tragedy.
A noticeable number of women dressed head-to-toe in black — a marked sign of mourning — were seen entering the Sadeek Mosque in Cairo’s suburb of Nasr City, where condolence prayers would be offered for the EgyptAir co-pilot.