Russian Passenger Jet Crashes in Egypt Leaving Over 220 Dead
Tragedy struck in Egypt on Saturday when a Russian passenger jet crashed in a remote region of the Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 on board.
The Metrojet Airbus A-321, en route to St. Petersburg, had only just taken off from the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh when the aircraft experienced a sudden loss of altitude for reasons that were not immediately known, BBC reports.
Top Russian aviation officials on Sunday revealed that the jet broke apart in mid air before plummeting 30,000 feet in just over 20 minutes.
There was immediate speculation Saturday that militants in Sinai, which has a presence of ISIS-allied jihadis, somehow downed the plane, whose passenger manifest included 17 children age 17 or under.
However, other signs pointed to mechanical problems. According to the AP, the pilot radioed that the aircraft was experiencing technical problems and that he intended to try an emergency landing at a nearby airport.
According to the New York Times, the ISIS branch in Sinai issued a statement claiming responsibility for the crash.
However, Russien Minister of Transportation Maxim Sokolov said the plane could not have been downed by a missile, reports BBC. "Such reports cannot be considered true," he said.
Egyptian officials said the jet lost contact with air traffic controllers while cruising at 36,000 feet.
The plane was discovered split in two, with half of it having burned up and the other crashed into a rock.
Egyptian officials confirmed there were no survivors among the 217 passengers and seven crew members.
Officials quickly set up a center at Pulkovo airport in St. Petersburg, where the flight was due to land at 12:10 p.m., to help the family of victims.
Egpyptian investigators arrived at the site, which is located in a region tightly controlled by military due to the years-long presence of militants, in part to examine the jet's "black box."