‘Disintegrated’ Air Algerie plane found with no survivors; black box recovered

Air Algerie plane falls off radar

PARIS — French forces secured the site of a crashed Air Algerie flight in Mali, and found one flight recorder but no survivors, French President Francoise Hollande said Friday.

Wreckage of the jet was found in a “disintegrated state” in northern Mali, he said, making it the third major international aviation disaster in recent days.

“There are unfortunately no survivors. I share the pain of the families who are living a horrible ordeal,” he said.

Hollande said the families would be welcomed to the Foreign Ministry Saturday to be given all the latest information.

Airline authorities said Flight 5017 was carrying 116 people when it took off early Thursday from Burkina Faso to Algeria.

Less than an hour into the flight, it disappeared from radar after changing its flight path because of bad weather, officials said.

“What we already know is that the debris from the plane is concentrated in a limited area, but it’s still too early to draw conclusions,” Hollande said. “There are hypotheses around — notably that it was to do with the weather. But we are ruling nothing out because we want to know everything.”

The plane’s wreckage was found in Mali’s Gossi region, not too far from the border with Burkina Faso, according to the French president.

Radar contact with the plane was lost 50 minutes after takeoff from the Burkina Faso capital of Ouagadougou, authorities said. The jet was supposed to arrive later that day at Houari Boumediene Airport in Algiers. Mali is between the two nations.

Air Algerie said the plane was carrying 110 passengers and six crew members, but Hollande gave a different number.

“My thoughts go to the 118 victims, those close to them and their families,” he said.

It was unclear why the president and the airline gave different numbers. France had 51 of its nationals aboard the plane, the president said.

The plane’s departure country of Burkina Faso had 24 people aboard, the airline said, while Lebanon had eight.

The passengers also included six Algerians; five Canadians; four Germans; two from Luxembourg; and one each from Mali, Cameroon, Belgium, Ukraine, Romania, Nigeria and Egypt, Air Algerie said.

Air Algerie said all six crew members were Spanish. The plane belongs to a private Spanish company, Swiftair, but was operated by Air Algerie.

Though the cause of the crash is unknown, the flight path took the aircraft through a turbulent area hit by regular thunderstorms at this time of year, according to meteorologist Mari Ramos.

The wreckage was located by a helicopter sent by Burkina Faso, the country’s Prime Minister Luc Adolphe Tiao said, according to his government’s website.

Tiao said 28 of those aboard were from Burkina Faso, four more than the number stated by the airline.

Tiao also said there was “no link” between the crash and the mediating role played by Algeria and his own country in the ongoing conflict in northern Mali between government forces, backed up by French troops, and Islamist militants.

He said the three countries must work hand in hand to clarify the situation and support the families of the victims.

Air Algerie’s crash came a week after a Malaysia Airlines plane was downed in Ukraine with 298 people on board.

Days after the July 17 incident, 48 people were killed when a twin-engine plane crashed while attempting to land Wednesday in Taiwan’s Penghu Islands.

Air Algerie, Algeria’s national airline, flies to 28 countries.

Until this week, the deadliest incident in the airline’s history occurred in March 2003 when a domestic flight crashed after takeoff, killing 102 people on board. One person survived.