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'Body part, seats and suitcases found' in search for missing EgyptAir plane

Published 20/05/2016

An EgyptAir plane has disappeared from radar with 66 people on board (AP)
An EgyptAir plane has disappeared from radar with 66 people on board (AP)

A body part, seats and suitcases have been found floating in the sea in the search for the missing EgyptAir plane, according to Greek officials.

Greek defence minister Panos Kammenos said the items were found in the Mediterranean, slightly to the south of where the aircraft vanished from radar signals early on Thursday.

Flight MS804 - an Airbus A320 with 56 passengers and 10 crew members flying from Paris to Cairo - went down about halfway between the Greek island of Crete and Egypt's coastline, or around 175 miles offshore, after take-off from Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Egypt's army spokesman said debris and passenger belongings have been located 180 miles off the coast of Alexandria in Egypt.

Airport officials in Egypt said investigators will inspect the debris and personal belongings that have been recovered.

The Briton on board, Richard Osman, a father-of-two, was described by his younger brother Alastair as a workaholic and a very admirable person who "never deviated from the straight path".

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said the Royal Fleet Auxiliary landing ship Lyme Bay and an RAF C130 Hercules aircraft had joined the search efforts.

Before it disappeared from radar screens around 2.45am Cairo time (12.45am GMT), the plane spun all the way around and suddenly lost altitude.

Egyptian and Russian officials said it may have been brought down by terrorists, and there are no signs of survivors.

Mr Osman, a geologist, had a master's degree in Mining Geology from the Camborne School of Mines in Penryn.

The 40-year-old, originally from Carmarthen in Wales, worked in the mining industry for more than 16 years and was employed by Centamin - a mineral exploration and mining company - as a business development manager.

Mr Osman had spent 12 years at the company's Sukari mine in Egypt. Prior to that, he worked in Western Australia.

Alastair Osman told ITV News: "Richard has two kids. Richard was a very kind person, loving person, very focused. He was a workaholic and never deviated from the straight path.

"A very admirable person and a lot of people admired him for his strength and values. He's a new dad. A dad for the second time now and I know that would have filled him with love and joy. It's funny how quickly things change."

Asked about why Mr Osman was on the flight, his brother told the news programme: "He would have been going to work I assume. I know he works in both Egypt and another country in Africa.

"I guess it was work related. He's been doing this for years in the gold mining industry. This was a regular trip. He used to do it at least once a month, year after year."

Alastair Osman added: "This is the reality of Isis and groups like that. It's indiscriminate. They don't think any of these people have family members, or a past, or a history of hopes and dreams. It's indiscriminate."

According to the Carmarthen Journal, Mr Osman is a former pupil at QE Cambria with family in the Swansea area.

The newspaper said he was the son of the late Fekri Osman, a founder of the Werndale private hospital in Bancyfelin.

His father moved to Wales from his native Egypt to work as a consultant in ear, nose and throat surgery in Singleton Hospital, Swansea, it said.

Egyptian and Greek authorities in ships and planes searched the suspected crash area throughout the day for traces of the airliner or its victims, with more help on the way from the US, Britain and France.

Civil aviation minister Sherif Fathi said the disaster was still being investigated but the possibility it was a terror attack "is higher than the possibility of having a technical failure".

Alexander Bortnikov, chief of Russia's top domestic security agency, said: "In all likelihood it was a terror attack."

Among those on board were a child and two babies, EgyptAir said. The airline said the 56 passengers included 30 Egyptians, 15 French, two Iraqis and one each from Britain, Sudan, Chad, Portugal, Algeria, Canada, Belgium, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

The Airbus A320 was built in 2003 and was flying at 37,000ft, the airline said on Twitter.

It tweeted that the pilot had logged 6,275 flying hours, including 2,101 hours on the A320, and the co-pilot had logged 2,766 hours.

There was confusion over whether a distress signal had been sent by the Airbus A320.

Egypt's civil aviation authority said one was received at 4.26am local time, believed to be an automated message rather than one sent by the pilot.

But in a statement on its website, the Egyptian military said later it had received no distress message from the aircraft.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the Foreign Office was in close contact with Egyptian and French authorities and said that staff were supporting the family of a British passport holder who boarded the flight in Paris.

Meanwhile, French president Francois Hollande held an emergency meeting at the Elysee Palace.

He also spoke to Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi by telephone and agreed to "closely co-operate to establish as soon as possible the circumstances" surrounding the disaster.

Jonathan Edwards, who is the MP for Mr Osman's home town in west Wales, said everyone in Carmarthen had been shocked by the news that one of their own had been killed in a terrorist attack.

Mr Osman had attended the town's Queen Elizabeth school before going to Kingston University and then later doing his master's degree at Camborne School of Mines in Cornwall.

Plaid Cymru MP Mr Edwards said: "The community is stunned that someone from Carmarthenshire has been killed in this terrorist atrocity.

"Our thoughts and sympathies are with his family - especially considering that Mr Osman was a new father.

"I'm sure the authorities will be urgently investigating how an explosive device has been delivered onto a plane from one of Europe's busiest airports."

The Lyme Bay was following the route of MS804's flightpath south east of Crete, but by mid-morning on Friday had not found any traces of the plane, said Downing Street.

The RAF C130 conducted one surveillance flight from the UK airbase at Akrotiri, Cyprus, on Thursday evening, and was carrying out a second on Friday morning.

The UK's Air Accidents Investigation Branch has offered its assistance and is ready to provide support if required, said Number 10.

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