Wreckage from the missing EgyptAir flight MS804 has been found near the Greek island of Karpathos, along with life jackets and other plastic material, EgyptAir said on Thursday evening.
The airliner said it was notified by the Egyptian Ministry of Civil Aviation, which received an official letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Family members of the passengers and crew have already been informed, EgyptAir said, adding that the Egyptian investigation team is working in cooperation with the Greek counterpart to find the other remains of the plane.
French President Francois Hollande had confirmed in a speech Thursday morning that EgyptAir flight MS804 crashed in the early hours, while Egyptian authorities had been more reluctant to draw conclusions until the missing plane was located and debris reportedly found in the Mediterranean was officially identified.
The Airbus A320, en route from Paris to Cairo, disappeared from the radar in the early hours of Thursday morning.
The plane departed from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport just after 11:00 pm Paris local time, and lost contact around 16 kilometers into Egyptian airspace, 280 kilometers north of the Egyptian coast.
The last contact between the pilot and Greek traffic controllers was at 1:48 am, to prepare the plane to exit Greek airspace. The pilot was in good spirits and reportedly thanked the Greek controller.
Athens air traffic control attempted to contact the aircraft at 2:27 am as it neared the edge of Greek airspace to send information concerning the switch of communications, according to the Guardian, but received no response despite repeated attempts.
The aircraft’s signal was completely lost by 2:40 am. Five minutes later, search and rescue missions were initiated, the Guardian added.
Fifty-six passengers and 10 crew members were on board, including two toddlers and a child, of the following nationalities: 30 Egyptians, 15 French, two Iraqis, and one passenger from the UK, Belgium, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Chad, Portugal, Algeria and Canada.
The Egyptian Armed Forces coordinated with Greek authorities to deploy reconnaissance air and naval forces in the search operation.
Despite hesitation from Egyptian authorities to confirm a crash until the plane is located, French President Francois Hollande said the plane had crashed, in a speech on Thursday morning.
“We cannot exclude any hypothesis. When we have the truth, we can draw conclusions, be it an accident or another hypothesis,” Hollande added, announcing an official investigation into the crash in cooperation with Egypt and Greece.
Later Thursday afternoon, Greek state television confirmed debris from the missing plane was found 230 nautical miles west of the island of Crete. Officials expressed caution that the debris has not yet been properly identified.
Greek sources told the Guardian that there is possibility that the plane was brought down by an explosion or suicide bomber.
Early Thursday evening, EgyptAir initially denied reports that debris from the missing plane had been found near Crete. On its Twitter account, EgyptAir said that it contacted the relevant authorities and was not able to confirm the news.
“It is a very difficult day today, not just for us in the Civil Aviation Ministry, but for everyone in Egypt,” Fathy said in a press conference at 1:30 pm. He neither confirmed nor denied links to a terrorist plot, saying, “Allow me to use the term ‘missing plane’ until we find its remnants.” The aircraft disappeared at 2:40 am and authorities were sure it was missing at 2:50 am, the minister added.
“We don’t know why French authorities confirmed the aircraft crashed. For us it is missing until its remnants are found,” Fathy said.
Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail told reporters that no possible reasons for the missing EgyptAir flight should be ruled out, including terrorism, according to the privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper.
“We cannot say for sure that terrorism is the reason, and we cannot deny it. We should wait until we collect all the necessary information and investigation committees finish their work,” he said.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry exchanged condolences with France over what was described as the “fall” of the missing EgyptAir plane before confirmation by Egyptian authorities that the plane crashed, Reuters reported.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called an emergency meeting with Egypt’s National Security Council to discuss developments.
The prosecutor general ordered an official investigation into the missing aircraft, stating it would be led by State Security prosecution, Sky News Arabia reported.
In March, EgyptAir flight 181, en route from Alexandria to Cairo, was forced to land in Cyprus after a passenger hijacked the plane, barring a number of hostages from exiting for several hours. The stand off was eventually resolved and all passengers and crew were released without harm.
Earlier this week EgyptAir announced a 50 percent discount on tickets until August in an attempt to boost sales, as Egyptian tourism continues to decline. The discounts were announced a day after the airline resumed normal service following a four-day strike by pilots over working days that have extended up to 14 hours.