Egypt’s Civil Aviation Minister Hossam Kamal said the joint Egyptian-Russian investigation committee probing the Russian plane crash last weekend will start examining the data from the black boxes retrieved from the crash site in the Sinai Peninsula.
Kamal said the committee — which includes Egyptian and Russian experts as well as representatives from Ireland, where the Metrojet’s Airbus A321-200 was registered — will conclude its last field inspection at the crash site by the end of the day Tuesday and start working on the black boxes.
Meanwhile, the first 10 bodies of victims of Saturday’s plane crash over Egypt were identified by their families Tuesday, a string of tearful relatives leaving the city crematorium.
In a massive outpouring of grief, thousands of people flocked to St. Petersburg’s airport, laying flowers, soft toys and paper planes next to the pictures of the victims of the crash of a passenger jet in Egypt that killed all 224 on board in Russia’s deadliest air crash to date.
Alexei Smirnov of the Russian emergency situations ministry said that a total of 140 bodies and more than 100 body parts were delivered to St. Petersburg on two government planes on Monday and Tuesday and that a third plane is expected to bring more remains later on Tuesday.
Metrojet’s Airbus A321-200 en route from Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg crashed over the Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, killing all 224 on board. The overwhelming majority of the passengers were Russian holidaymakers flying home.
Kamal said it “will take some time” to produce the final report and that the committee “has all the tools and experts to deal with the investigation.”
Mourners continued to come to St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport on Tuesday to lay flowers and leave paper planes and soft toys at the arrivals hall. On the outskirts of town, tearful families of the victims were leaving the premises of the crematorium where the identification procedures are taking place.
The Tass news agency on Tuesday quoted Alexander Rzhanenkov, an official at the St. Petersburg city hall, as saying that the first two bodies could be released to their families on Tuesday. He did not identify the victims but said they were from the St. Petersburg suburbs and a neighboring region.
Alexander Agafonov, head of the Russian rescue mission in Egypt, said in a televised conference with other officials Tuesday afternoon that searchers have not found a single additional body on Tuesday having combed a 28 square-kilometer (10.8 square-mile) area. Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov said the site “should be studied centimeter by centimeter.”
“If you need to sift through the sand where the remains or pieces of the fuselage could be, do it,” he said.
Confusing reports and theories have emerged as to what could have caused the crash.
Some aviation experts raised the possibility that a bomb on board the Airbus brought it down, while others cited an incident in 2001 when the aircraft grazed the runway with its tail while landing.
Metrojet firmly denied that the crash could have been caused by either equipment failure or crew error.
In Egypt, the U.S. Embassy has instructed its staff not to travel anywhere in the Sinai Peninsula pending the outcome of the investigation into the crash as a “precautionary measure.”
The United States, Germany, and Britain all had overflight warnings in place for the Sinai. They advised airlines to avoid flying over the peninsula below 26,000 feet and to avoid the Sharm el-Sheikh airport due to extremist violence and, notably, the use of anti-aircraft weapons.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi insisted on Tuesday that the security situation in the Sinai Peninsula is under “full control” and that claims by the Islamic State group that it downed the plane were “propaganda” aimed at damaging the country’s image. In an interview with the BBC released Tuesday, el-Sissi also reiterated his assertion that the cause of the crash may not be known for months and that, until then, the causes should not be speculated on.
Islamic State militants said on the day of the crash that they had “brought down” the Russian plane to avenge those killed as a result of Moscow’s recent air campaign in Syria, launched in support of IS adversary President Bashar Assad.
But the group did not provide any evidence to back up its claim, and militants in northern Sinai have not to date shot down commercial airliners or fighter jets.
A new clue in the crash of a Russian passenger plane over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula
U.S. officials say a heat flash was detected by a satellite at the time of the disaster. This could indicate some sort of explosion brought down the plane that killed all 224 aboard.
Air crash investigators have begun to examine the black box flight recorders from the Russian passenger jet that crashed in Egypt’s Sinai desert on Saturday. An international team will start trying to determine what happened to the Airbus A321 aircraft, which Russian authorities say broke up in mid air as it was flying from Sharm el Sheikh to St. Petersburg.
There’s still no clear answer as to why 217 passengers and 7 crew are returning to St. Petersburg in body bags.
The preliminary results could be announced in about four weeks, but to come up with the absolutely final report they may need at least six months.
One Russian news agency reports that it’s seen a transcript of cockpit recordings, and there was no distress call before the plane went off the radar, but ‘unusual sounds’ were heard just before it disappeared.
CCTV’s Lorna Shaddick reports from Moscow.
A new clue in the crash of a Russian passenger plane over Egypt\'s Sinai PeninsulaU.S. officials say a heat flash was detected by a satellite at the time of the disaster. This could indicate some sort of explosion brought down the plane that killed all 224 aboard.
Scott Hamilton on the Egypt plane crash
For more on the investigation, CCTV America spoke with Scott Hamilton. He’s an airline industry analyst and Managing Director at Leeham Company.