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Search Continues for EgyptAir Wreckage as Officials Probe Terror Links

This is a Jan 2015 image of EgyptAir Airbus A320 with the registration SU-GCC in the air near Zaventem airport in Brussels.  Egyptian aviation officials said on May 19, 2016 that an EgyptAir flight MS804 has crashed. (AP Photo/Kevin Cleynhens)
This is a Jan 2015 image of EgyptAir Airbus A320 with the registration SU-GCC in the air near Zaventem airport in Brussels. Egyptian aviation officials said on May 19, 2016 that an EgyptAir flight MS804 has crashed. (AP Photo/Kevin Cleynhens)

Wreckage from the EgyptAir flight that went down early Thursday with 66 people on board has been located by a flotilla of ships scouring the Mediterranean waters off of Greece, an airline official reportedly confirmed.

Cairo-bound EgyptAir Flight 804 dropped from the sky hours after departing from Paris. The plane banked and spun sharply before plunging less than an hour before it was due to land in Cairo at 3:15 a.m. local time, according to aviation officials. Authorities have said terrorism was a more likely cause of the crash than technical failure.

Government officials from France, Greece and Egypt spoke at separate news conferences even as boats and ships from several countries searched the waters off of the Greek island of Karpathos, where debris from the plane was found, amn EgyptAir official told CNN.

A Greek military official told The Associated Press planes had earlier spotted debris 230 miles south-southeast of the island of Crete but still within the Egyptian air traffic control area. Two other floating objects, colored white and red, were spotted in the same area, Greek defense sources told Reuters.

Speaking from Cairo, Egyptian Minister of Aviation Sherif Fathy said the AirBus 320, which left Charles de Gaulle Airport at 11:09 p.m. local time Wednesday and was due in Cairo at 3:15 a.m., "vanished."

"I'm not excluding any theory," said Fathy, who responded to a reporter’s question by saying that the possibility of a terror attack as the cause of the crash is "stronger" than technical failure.

Greek officials say the plane banked and spun sharply just before dropping.

"The plane carried out a 90-degree turn to the left and a 360-degree turn to the right, falling from 37,000 to 15,000 feet and the signal was lost at around 10,000 feet," Greece’s Defense Minister Panos Kammenos told a news conference Thursday.

Greek air traffic controllers tried to make contact as the plane left Greek airspace, but the pilot did not respond, he said. They continued to try to reach the pilot until 2:29 a.m. Cairo time, when the plane disappeared from the radar 7 miles southeast of the island of Crete.

What is unknown about the plane's final moments in the air could be consistent with terrorism, David Learmount, a leading British air analyst, told Fox News.

"All this says is that the plane was destabilized . . . it doesn't say why," Learmount said.

Learmount said it is possible that a bomb or someone with a gun or knife entering the cockpit could de-stabilize a plane, but also pointed out that a mechanical or technical defect, as well as human error, could also de-stabilize the aircraft.

Airbus confirmed in a statement the “loss of an EgyptAir A320” earlier Thursday.

Flight 804 was carrying 56 passengers, including one child and two babies, three security staff and seven crew members, officials said. Fathy said identities would not be released until relatives could be contacted, but described those on board as including 15 French passengers, 30 Egyptians, one Briton, two Iraqis, one Kuwaiti, one Saudi, one Sudanese, one Chadian, one Portuguese, one Algerian and one Canadian.

Among passengers on missing EgyptAir Flight 804 was a student training at a French military school who was heading to his family home in Chad to mourn his mother.

The protocol officer for Chad's embassy in Paris, Muhammed Allamine, said the man "was going to give condolences to his family." Allamine said the man, who wasn't identified, was a student at France's prestigious Saint-Cyr army academy.

Another passenger on the flight was an Egyptian man returning home after medical treatment in France, according to two shocked friends who turned up at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport.

"It breaks my heart," said one friend, Madji Samaan.

Kuwait's Foreign Ministry identified a Kuwaiti feared dead in the crash as Abdulmohsen al-Muteiri, but offered no other details.

In Paris, relatives started arriving at De Gaulle Airport outside the French capital.A man and a woman, identified by airport staff as relatives of passengers, sat at an information desk near the EgyptAir counter.

The woman sobbed, holding her face in a handkerchief. The pair were led away by police.

Officials offered conflicting reports of an emergency beacon being picked up two hours after the plane had dropped off from radar. The Egyptian military said that no such distress call was received, but didn’t specify whether they were confirming an initial report or dismissing an EgyptAir statement.

Defense officials told Fox News Thursday that the U.S. Navy is flying P-3 reconnaissance aircraft to assist in the search effort.