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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 16 July 2018

EgyptAir crash was caused by cockpit fire, French investigators say

Finding contradicts Egyptian claim that explosives may have been responsible for crash of Paris-Cairo flight in 2016

French investigators have said that the crash of an EgyptAir Paris-Cairo flight in May 2016 may have been caused by a cockpit fire. Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters
French investigators have said that the crash of an EgyptAir Paris-Cairo flight in May 2016 may have been caused by a cockpit fire. Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters

The 2016 crash of a Paris-Cairo EgyptAir flight that killed all 66 people on board was probably caused by a cockpit fire, French investigators said, contradicting an earlier suggestion by Egyptian authorities that a bomb may have been the cause.

In rare criticism of another country's crash probe, the French BEA air accident investigation agency said that authorities in Egypt had apparently not followed up calls for further investigations.

Egyptian officials have said traces of explosives were found on human remains retrieved from the crash, suggesting it was a malicious act.

"The BEA's proposals concerning further work on the debris and recorded data were not, as far as the BEA knows, followed up. The technical elements of the investigation already collected by Egypt, including those provided by the BEA, are protected by the Egyptian judicial investigation," the French statement said.

Twelve of those killed in the May 2016 crash were French nationals.

It is unusual for investigators to comment publicly on a case being led by their counterparts in another country. Any disagreement would usually be expressed confidentially, with public comments indicating serious divergences.

"The BEA considers that the most likely hypothesis is that a fire broke out in the cockpit while the aeroplane was flying at its cruise altitude and that the fire spread rapidly resulting in the loss of control of the aeroplane," the statement said.

It noted that Egyptian investigators had not published their final report, adding that the BEA was ready to resume work with Egyptian authorities if they were to resume work on the probe. International regulations stipulate a report should come out within a year of a crash.

EgyptAir was not immediately available for comment on the case, which was handed to judicial authorities after the Egyptian assessment of the cause given in December 2016.

An official at Egypt's aviation ministry said the public prosecutor was still investigating and was responsible for the case because of the potential for criminal charges.