MOSCOW (Reuters, AFP) - The Russian airline whose jet crashed in Egypt killing everyone on board said on Monday (Nov 2) the crash could not have been caused by technical faults or human error.
US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said later on Monday he knew of no “direct evidence” that terrorism was to blame for the weekend crash. Speaking at a Washington defense summit, Clapper said it was “unlikely” that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had the capacity to carry out such an attack, but added “I wouldn’t rule it out.”
“We don’t have any direct evidence of any terrorist involvement yet,” he said.
The comments came as President Vladimir Putin called last weekend's crash, Russia's worst air disaster, a great tragedy and urged investigators to build an “objective picture” of what happened. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev also called for a thorough investigation.
The crash, in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, could only have been the result of some other "technical or physical action" which caused it to break up in the air and then plummet to the ground, said Alexander Smirnov, deputy general director of the airline, Kogalymavia.
He told a news conference in Moscow the plane began falling out of control and the pilots had no time to report the emergency situation.
“The crew totally lost control and for that reason there was not one attempt to get in contact and report on the accident situation onboard,” Smirnov said. The plane was “flying out of control – that is it wasn’t flying, it was falling,” he said.
“Apparently by that moment the plane had received significant damage to its construction that did not allow it to continue the flight.”
While stressing the need to wait for the findings of an investigation, Smirnov said that he ruled out both a technical fault and human error. “We rule out technical faultiness of the plane, we exclude a mistake by the pilot or the crew, the so-called human factor,” he said.
“The plane was in excellent condition,” Smirnov said.
Earlier on Monday Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that no theory, including the possibility of a terrorist attack, could yet be ruled out.
“I would like to once again express my condolences to the families and relatives of the victims,” Putin was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency. “Without any doubt everything should be done so that an objective picture of what happened is created, so that we know what happened,” Putin said in comments cited by ITAR-TASS.
“This work should be continued until we are fully sure that this stage is complete.”
An Egyptian militant group affiliated with ISIS said on Saturday it brought down the plane “in response to Russian air strikes that killed hundreds of Muslims on Syrian land”. Russia’s transport minister dismissed the claim, saying it “can’t be considered accurate”.
Investigators from several countries have joined an Egypt-led probe to determine what brought down Kogalymavia’s flight 9268 on Saturday, killing all 224 people on board, en route from the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to the Russian city of St Petersburg.
The Airbus A-321 was not struck from the outside and the pilot did not make a distress call before it disappeared from radar, a source in the committee analysing the black box recorders said.
The source declined to give more details but based his comments on the preliminary examination of the black boxes recovered from the flight.
A civil aviation ministry source said earlier that the analysis of the flight recorders was ongoing.
Kogalymavia’s deputy general director for engineering, Andrei Averyanov, said a 2001 incident when the plane’s tail section struck the tarmac on landing was fully repaired and could not have been a factor in the crash.
He said the aircraft’s engines had undergone routine inspection in Moscow on Oct 26 which found no problems and he said in the five flights before the crash, the crew recorded no technical problems in the aircraft’s log book.
Oksana Golovina, a representative of the holding company that controls Kogalymavia, told the news conference the airline had experienced no financial problems which could have influenced flight safety.