A technical fault or pilot error could not have caused the crash of a Russian plane in Egypt that killed all 224 people on board, a top official at the airline said Monday.
Alexander Smirnov, the deputy general director of Metrojet, said the cause of the crash “could only have been an external impact on the plane” in the air.
When pressed for an explanation about what could have caused this impact, Smirnov insisted that he was not at liberty to discuss details because the investigation was ongoing.
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Smirnov also said the crew did not send a distress call and they did not contact traffic controllers before the crash.
The Metrojet Airbus A321-200 crashed in the Sinai 23 minutes after taking off from the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St. Petersburg. Russian officials say it broke up at high altitude, scattering fragments of wreckage and bodies over a wide area.
At the crash site in Egypt, emergency workers and aviation experts from Russia and Egypt swept across the barren terrain Monday, searching for more victims and examining the debris for clues as to the cause of Saturday’s crash.
A Russian cargo plane brought the first bodies of Russian victims killed in the crash to St. Petersburg, a city awash in grief for its missing residents.
The government plane brought 140 bodies to St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport, touching down in the dark. The bodies were then taken to a city morgue and a crematorium, where Russian forensic experts immediately began working to identify the victims, said Yulia Shoigu, a Russian Emergency Situations official.