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Saturday, May 21, 2016, 18:37

Smoke detected on Egypt jet just before crash: Investigators

By Agencies

Smoke detected on Egypt jet just before crash: Investigators
This picture posted May 21, 2016, on the official Facebook page of the Egyptian Armed Forces spokesman shows a life vest from EgyptAir flight 804. (Egyptian Armed Forces via AP)

CAIRO - An EgyptAir jet sent a burst of error messages indicating that smoke had been detected on board before crashing into the Mediterranean on Thursday, France's BEA air accident investigation agency said on Saturday, confirming media reports.

"These messages do not allow in any way to say what may have caused smoke or fire on board the aircraft," a spokesman for the agency said, adding that the messages indicated that smoke been detected towards the front of the cabin.

He said the priority now was to find the aircraft and its two flight recorders containing cockpit voice recordings and data readings. The Airbus A320 vanished from radar on its way to Cairo from Paris with 66 people on board.

The flight data was sent through an automatic system called the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS), which routinely downloads maintenance and fault data to the airline operating the aircraft.

Aviation website Aviation Herald published a burst of seven messages broadcast over the space of three minutes. These included alarms about smoke in the lavatory as well as the aircraft's avionics area, which sits under the cockpit.

Smoke detected on Egypt jet just before crash: Investigators
The Imam of al Thawrah Mosque, Samir Abdel Bary, gives condolences to Tarek Abu Laban (center) who lost four relatives, all victims of Thursday's EgyptAir plane crash, following prayers for the dead, at al Thawrah Mosque, in Cairo, Egypt, May 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

While suggesting a possible fire, the relatively short sequence of data gives no insight into pilot efforts to control the aircraft, nor does it show whether it fell in one piece or disintegrated in mid-air, two aviation safety experts said.

The BEA is assisting an official investigation into the crash, which has been launched by Egypt's air crash investigation authority.

Looking for clues to whether terrorists may have brought down the Airbus A320, investigators have been poring over the passenger list and questioned ground crew members at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, from which the plane took off.

The Airbus A320 had been cruising normally in clear skies on a nighttime flight to Cairo early Thursday when it suddenly lurched left, then right, spun all the way around and plummeted 38,000 feet (11,582.4 meters) into the sea, never issuing a distress signal.

Search crews, meanwhile, are scouring for further wreckage of the aircraft, including its black boxes, which could provide vital clues to why the jetliner crashed.

Planes and vessels from Egypt and five other countries continued searching a wide area of the eastern Mediterranean on Saturday, a day after the Egyptian army found human remains and debris from the passenger jet in the sea 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of the Egyptian port city of Alexandria.

Smoke detected on Egypt jet just before crash: Investigators
This picture posted May 21, 2016, on the official Facebook page of the Egyptian Armed Forces spokesman shows a life vest from EgyptAir flight 804. (Egyptian Armed Forces via AP)

Smoke detected on Egypt jet just before crash: Investigators
This picture posted May 21, 2016, on the official Facebook page of the Egyptian Armed Forces spokesman shows part of the wreckage from EgyptAir flight 804. (Egyptian Armed Forces Facebook via AP)

Smoke detected on Egypt jet just before crash: Investigators
This picture posted May 21, 2016, on the official Facebook page of the Egyptian Armed Forces spokesman shows part of a plane chair from EgyptAir flight 804. (Egyptian Armed Forces via AP)

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