PARIS >> Searchers in the Mediterranean have found the first sunken wreckage of the EgyptAir flight that mysteriously veered off course and plunged from 37,000 feet last month, the Egyptian government reported today.
All 66 people aboard the jetliner, EgyptAir Flight 804 bound for Cairo from Paris, were killed in the still-unexplained crash May 19, as the plane was on the final leg of its trip in Egyptian airspace.
News of the discovered wreckage was reported in a statement from the Egyptian Aircraft Accident Investigation Committee, established by the government to find out what happened to the plane, an Airbus A320.
The statement said that a search vessel, the John Lethbridge, had found and “identified several main locations of the wreckage” and that investigators had been provided with photographic images taken from the seabed, roughly 10,000 feet below the surface.
There was no immediate word on the precise location of the wreckage or whether it included the data recorders that are essential for helping determine why the plane crashed.
The discovery was the first significant breakthrough in the search for the plane since investigators said they had detected signals from one of its two flight recorder beacons, or “pingers,” nearly two weeks ago.
With the battery life of those beacons expiring by next week, investigators are hoping to retrieve the recorders — which contain cockpit conversations and data from the plane’s onboard computers — before they fall silent.
Investigators and search teams will begin mapping the debris field on the ocean floor, the Egyptian committee said. Even in the absence of the data from the flight recorders, air accident experts have said that the distribution of the wreckage would yield significant clues. If the debris contains large pieces of the plane that are concentrated in a relatively small area, that would suggest that the plane hit the water largely intact. Smaller debris scattered across a wide area would suggest that it broke up in midair — possibly the result of an explosion.
Remi Jouty, the director of France’s air accidents bureau, which is advising Egypt in the investigation, said last week that investigators were still “very far” from understanding what may have caused the crash.