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Memorial Services Held for Victims of Egyptian Airliner Crash - 2004-01-08

Two memorial services were held Thursday in Egypt for the victims of last Saturday's plane crash in the Red Sea that killed everyone on board, most of them French tourists. More than 100 family members of the victims attended, along with French and Egyptian officials.

With many of them sobbing, the victims' families stood atop a hill overlooking the Red Sea.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, Suzanne Mubarak, the wife of the Egyptian President and several Egyptian cabinet members also attended the services.

Roman Catholic, Muslim and Protestant clerics took turns saying prayers, while family members were invited to throw roses into the sea. Psychologists and doctors were available to treat the family members. The family members were then invited to a second memorial service on a ship near where the plane went down. The chartered Boeing 737 jet crashed shortly after takeoff from the Egyptian resort Sharm el-Sheikh killing all 148 people on board.

Mr. de Villepin arrived in Egypt late Wednesday, where he promised the French government would do all it can to find out why the plane suddenly plummeted into the sea. He said there is no indication that it was anything other than a terrible accident, but he added that everything must be systematically checked.

France has played a significant role in the search and recovery effort, sending naval vessels, helicopters, planes, divers, medical specialists and equipment to Egypt.

Recovery teams have been attempting to locate the plane's flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder. The two boxes contain flight data and conversations between the pilots and should help investigators determine why the plane crashed.

Signals from both of the boxes have been detected. However, the recorders are believed to be several hundred meters beneath the sea and special equipment will be required to retrieve them. French officials have been quoted as saying it could take a week for the equipment to arrive in Egypt.

Egyptian and French authorities have said that radar data indicates the plane likely experienced a mechanical problem before crashing.