French blame cockpit fire for 2016 EgyptAir crash, contradicting Egypt

This August 21, 2015 file photo shows an EgyptAir Airbus A320 with the registration SU-GCC taking off from Vienna International Airport, Austria. AP Photo/Thomas Ranner

The 2016 crash of a Paris-Cairo EgyptAir flight that killed all 66 people on board was likely 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 in a statement that authorities in Egypt had apparently not followed up calls for further investigations.

READ MORE: Voice recorder of EgyptAir Flight MS804 reveals pilot attempted to put out fire, investigators say

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.

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WATCH: What brought down EgyptAir MS804?

Click to play video: 'What brought down EgyptAir MS804?' What brought down EgyptAir MS804?
What brought down EgyptAir MS804? – May 19, 2016

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.

READ MORE: Egypt says signals picked up from doomed EgyptAir Flight MS804 black box

Click to play video: 'Egypt says signals picked up from doomed EgyptAir Flight MS804 black box' Egypt says signals picked up from doomed EgyptAir Flight MS804 black box
Egypt says signals picked up from doomed EgyptAir Flight MS804 black box – Jun 1, 2016

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.

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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, who asked to remain anonymous, said the public prosecutor was still investigating and was responsible for the case because of the potential for criminal charges.

A person familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “There are political differences between France and Egypt over this investigation.” The source declined to give further details.

France and Egypt have in the past disagreed over how crash investigations are handled.

READ MORE: Second Canadian victim in crash ID’d as Toronto man

After a bomb brought down a Metrojet plane carrying Russian holidaymakers home from the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh in October 2015, killing all 224 people on board, Egyptian officials initially denied widely held suspicions that a bomb caused the crash.

Neither France nor the United States suspected a bomb in the EgyptAir crash, however.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Metrojet bomb, saying it smuggled aboard explosives in a soft drink can.

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