A draft of the final U.S. report on the crash of EgyptAir Flight 990 does nothing to contradict the theory that the jet was intentionally plunged into the sea, The Associated Press learned Wednesday.
The report, which is being sent to Egyptian authorities, for the first time contains analysis of what may have caused the crash that killed all 217 people aboard, said Keith Holloway, a National Transportation Safety Board spokesman.
He declined to comment on the report, but an official close to the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity said no evidence has been found to indicate a mechanical problem caused the 1999 crash.
The Boeing 767 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off Nantucket, Mass., after leaving New York for Cairo. U.S. investigators have suggested that the plane's co-pilot, Gameel El-Batouty, deliberately crashed the plane.
The airline and Egyptian government have vehemently denied the possibility that the crash was deliberate, suggesting something must have gone wrong with the plane.
After receiving the NTSB report, Egyptian authorities will have 60 days to submit their own conclusions on the crash before the document is finalized.
EgyptAir Chairman Mohammed Fahim Rayan would not comment on the crash or report. Instead, the airline issued a press release citing flight control problems with Boeing 767s and suggested again that a mechanical problem may have brought down the plane.
"We urge the NTSB, the FAA, and Boeing to continue to press their inquiry into what caused the loss of Flight 990 and to consider the possibility there might be an inherent flaw in the design and/or maintenance procedures of the Boeing 767 flight control system," the airline said.
"We and the aviation industry owe it to the families of those aboard Flight 990 -- and to the flying public -- to learn what caused this tragedy and ensure that it never happens again," it continued.
The NTSB has said it does not consider mechanical problems to be linked to the crash. Boeing spokeswoman Liz Verdier said its investigators and engineers found nothing wrong with the plane.
When the NTSB released 1,660 pages of data about the crash last August, then-NTSB chairman James Hall said the cause remained under investigation. But he also said that no public hearing would be held by the board because its investigators "believe there are no unresolved safety issues."
Jim Brokaw, president of Families of EgyptAir 990 Inc., which represents relatives of both Egyptian and North American victims of the crash, said he has not heard of any changes to the NTSB theory.
"All indications suggest the NTSB report will come down on the side of intentional act," said Brokaw, who lost his father and stepmother in the crash. "All the noises I've been hearing from the NTSB indicate that's the way it's going to go."
Earlier this year, EgyptAir acknowledged liability for the crash, agreeing to pay damages to families that are eligible to sue in U.S. courts. Eligibility is determined by a complicated set of circumstances, including where the passenger's ticket was purchased.
The airline did not accept full blame for the crash.
By DAVID RISING
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