A passenger jet that crashed killing all onboard was brought down by the pilot having a cigarette in the cockpit, an investigation has found.
The pilot onboard EgyptAir flight MS804 lit a cigarette in the cockpit, causing oxygen leaking from an emergency mask to combust.
A total of 66 passengers and crew died when the Airbus A320 which was travelling from Paris Charles de Gaulle in France to Cairo, Egypt in May 2016 crashed into the Mediterranean Sea south of the Greek island of Crete in mysterious circumstances.
The plane made violent swerves before falling into a “death spiral” over the Med.
Among the dead were one Brit, 12 French tourists, 30 Egyptians, two Iraqis, and one Canadian.
The dead Brit was named as 40-year-old father-of-two Richard Osman, whose second daughter had been born just three weeks before his tragic death.
Following a major search mission involving the US Navy, the plane’s black box was found in deep water close to Greece.
At the time, Egyptian authorities claimed the plane was brought down in a terrorist attack, despite no group claiming responsibility.
It was claimed explosives were found on the bodies of plane crash victims, although this was later discredited.
However, an official investigation has concluded that smoke from the pilot’s cigarette accidentally ignited oxygen leaking from an emergency mask.
Egyptian pilots would often smoke in the cockpit, and incredibly, the practice wasn’t banned at the time of the 2016 crash, according to a 134-page report produced by aviation experts.
The setting on the oxygen mask had been switched by a maintenance engineer from normal to emergency, the experts said, as reported by the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera.
This caused the mask to emit oxygen, creating a highly volatile situation.
A hissing sound made by escaping oxygen was identified by investigators at around 2.25am on the morning of May 19, just minutes before the passenger jet crashed into the sea.
It isn’t known why the maintenance engineer had put the face mask into the emergency setting.
The experts’ report has been sent to the Court of Appeal in Paris.
An experienced pilot said the plane’s captain Mohamed Said Ali Ali Shoukair should have detected the faulty mask ahead of takeoff.
“When we go into the cabin, among the various checks we make before taking off is to check the flow of oxygen in the masks,” Italian pilot Daniele Veronelli told Corriere Della Sera.
“If the switch is in the normal position, the flow of oxygen is on request. If it is on the emergency setting, it will release oxygen at a greater pressure to blow away the smoke that could be in the cabin if there’s a fire on board.”
The report is yet to be released publicly, according to the Italian newspaper.
Grieving relatives have spoken out in anger at the news.
Julie Heslouin, who lost her brother, 41, and 75-year-old father in the disaster said: “We have been waiting since 2016 to understand why we lost our loved ones and officially no one told us anything.”
In 2018, France’s civil aviation accident bureau BEA said it was “most likely… that a fire broke out in the cockpit while the aircraft was flying at its cruise altitude and that the fire spread rapidly, resulting in the loss of control of the aircraft”.
At the time, there was no mention of oxygen leaks or pilots smoking in the cabin.
It was reported the EgyptAir flight may have crashed due to a smartphone overheating.
This story originally appeared on The Sun and has been reproduced here with permission.