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French Rescue Experts Arrive in Egypt to Aid Crash Probe - 2004-01-04

French search and rescue experts, along with DNA specialists, have arrived in Egypt to aid in the investigation of Saturday's plane crash that killed 148 people.

Efforts to retrieve bodies, wreckage, and the flight data recorder from Saturday's crash are being hampered by the fact the plane went down in hundreds of meters of shark-infested water.

The jetliner carrying 135 tourists, most of them French, and 13 crewmembers crashed shortly after takeoff into the Red Sea near Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh resort. Everyone on board the flight bound for Paris was killed.

Authorities say that radar information suggests the plane experienced mechanical problems before plummeting into the sea.

Civil Aviation Minister Ahmed Shafik said Egypt is asking France to help aid in the investigation. Mr. Shafik says he believes that by contacting their French colleagues to help provide technical expertise, it will speed up the investigation into the air disaster.

France dispatched a submarine robot and a warship equipped with sensitive sonar equipment to the Red Sea. French DNA experts were also arriving in Egypt to aid in the identification of bodies, along with accident inquiry specialists and diving teams.

Transportation and aviation experts from the United States and the Boeing company, which built the plane, are also taking part in the investigation.

A 10-square-kilometer area of the Red Sea is being searched by dozens of Egyptian naval vessels, several aircraft, and more than a dozen divers.

Most of the passengers were on a New Year holiday tour arranged by a French travel agency.

Saturday's crash was Egypt's worst aviation disaster since an Egypt Air jetliner crashed in 1999, after leaving New York for Cairo, killing more than 200 passengers.