Egyptian jet crashes into Red Sea; 148 presumed dead


Does It Really Matter....?
Staff member
Mohamed Khalifa, Associated Press

Published January 3, 2004 EGYP04

CAIRO, Egypt - A charter airliner carrying 148 people - mostly French tourists - crashed into the Red Sea on Saturday shortly after taking off from the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, officials said. No survivors were reported.

The military sent helicopters and small patrol boats into an area full of floating suitcases and other debris to search for survivors, but only one body had been pulled from the water several hours after the crash.

The Boeing 737 jet, which disappeared from radar after it took off shortly before 5 a.m., was headed to Cairo for a crew change before continuing to Paris. No distress call was made, airport officials said on customary condition of anonymity.

The crash occurred amid a week of heightened concerns about terrorist threats from the air that have led to increased security and canceled flights around the world.

But an initial statement from Egypt's Civil Aviation Ministry called the crash an ``accident'' that may have been caused by a mechanical problem.

A French Embassy official in Cairo, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that he had a list of people aboard that showed 134 French tourists, one Moroccan tourist and 13 crew members.

Airport officials earlier said there were 135 passengers and six crew members.

Air Flash, which operated the airliner, said in a statement that the wreckage was found about nine miles from the airport, according to the Egyptian news agency MENA.

Emergency teams rushed to the scene and found the wreckage of the jet close to the coast, MENA reported.

A German who runs a diving center in Sharm el-Sheikh described Egyptian navy ships and helicopters combing the crash site, but he said ``nothing has surfaced so far.''

``Nobody heard a crash or an explosion,'' Mark Marger said.

Engineers from the national carrier EgyptAir were helping to determine what happened.

Air Flash said the 737 was one of just two it owned. The company said it has been in business for six years, but provided few other details in its statement carried by MENA.

At the airline's offices in Cairo, about 20 people had gathered, including weeping relatives of crew members and some journalists.

The weather was clear in Sharm el-Sheikh, 300 miles southeast of Cairo on the Sinai peninsula, and other flights were taking off without incident, officials said.

The Boeing 737 had flown in early Saturday from Milan, Italy, dropping off passengers in Sharm el-Sheikh, the airline said. New passengers then boarded for the flight to Paris via Cairo.

The airplane received its maintenance checks in Norway and the most recent one showed no problems, the airline said.

Sharm el-Sheik is a popular Red Sea tourist resort that also frequently hosts major political and economic summits. Egypt has held several meetings on Middle East peace there, including one in which President Bush met with regional leaders in June over the ``road map'' plan toward creating a Palestinian state.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair was vacationing at the resort, but a spokeswoman at his office in London said neither Blair nor any members of his family were aboard the Air Flash plane.

Egypt's last major airline disaster occurred in 1999, when an EgyptAir jetliner crashed shortly after leaving New York en route to Cairo, killing all 217 people aboard.

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What IS it with the plane crashes lately?!
What IS it with the plane crashes lately?!

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That's what I want to know. I wonder if the airlines are maintaining there aircraft correctly.
I am listening to CNN right now & so far the blame is mechanical reasons. My prayers go out to the families of the survivors, I just hope this was a mechanical.