Some of the last words from the pilot of the EgyptAir plane that went down last week were about smoke just minutes before the plane crashed. The pilot apparently tried to carry out a “sudden descent” to extinguish a fire on board.
Amid a slew of conflicting reports, one of the pilots—believed to be Captain Mohamed Said Ali Shoukair, 37—spoke to air traffic control “for minutes” as he tried to bring the plane under control, French channel M6 has claimed. He tried to bring the plane down as his cockpit filled with smoke.
The channel reported that he told the control tower in Cairo that smoke was filling up the aircraft and was attempting to make an emergency descent to clear the fumes, according to The Telegraph newspaper.
The account contradicts the official version, which insisted there was no distress call or radio contact from the pilot before flight MS-804 crashed into the Mediterranean Sea.
Egyptian officials denied the M6 report, maintaining that the “claims made by the French TV station are not true. The pilot did not contact Egypt air control before the incident.”
Emergency descents can be dangerous because they can cause major changes in cabin air pressure.
The M6 claims follow accounts of leaked flight data saying there was trouble in the cockpit area and smoke in a plane bathroom before the plane crashed, according to The Independent.
On Tuesday, a senior Egyptian forensics official said human remains retrieved from the crash site of EgyptAir Flight 804 have burn marks and are very small in size, suggesting an explosion on board may have downed the aircraft.
“The logical explanation is that an explosion brought it down,” the official said.
The official, who is part of the Egyptian team investigating the crash that killed all 66 people on board the flight from Paris to Cairo early last Thursday, has personally examined the remains at a Cairo morgue. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
However, the head of the government’s forensic agency later Tuesday dismissed as speculation all media reports about human remains from the crash indicating an explosion.
“Whatever has been published is baseless and mere assumptions,” Hisham Abdel-Hamid told Egypt’s state MENA news agency.
A statement from the government’s investigative committee also warned media outlets to be cautious about what is published “to avoid chaos and spreading false rumors and damaging the state’s high interests and national security.”
The Egyptian expert told AP that all 80 pieces that have been brought to Cairo so far are very small. “There isn’t even a whole body part, like an arm or a head,” said the official, adding that one piece was the left part of a head.
He said the body parts are “so tiny” and that at least one piece of a human arm has signs of burns—an indication it might have “belonged to a passenger sitting next to the explosion.”
“But I cannot say what caused the blast,” he said. He did not say whether traces of explosives were found on the human remains retrieved so far.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.