Air Algerie Flight AH5017 crash: Plane 'disintegrated,' French officials say

French officials said nobody survived after an Air Algerie plane carrying 118 people, including five Canadians, crashed and "disintegrated" in northern Mali.

5 Canadians among 118 people killed in crash include entire family and friend travelling with them

1st images of Air Algerie crash site

8 years ago
Duration 3:37
Flight AH5017 crash: No survivors, French president says


  • Video of crash site emerges
  • One of two black boxes from MD-83 jet recovered
  • Family of four among Canadian victims

French officials said nobody survived after an Air Algerie plane carrying 118 people, including five Canadians, crashed and "disintegrated" in northern Mali.

French President Francois Hollande increased the death toll to 118 from 116 on Friday, and also raised the number of French citizens killed to 54 from 51 after Air Algerie Flight AH5017 crashed in a remote area of scrub land. The flight was heading to the Algerian capital Algiers from from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso soldiers, who were the first on the scene, recorded video showing the blackened wreckage of the MD-83 jet, as well as a large crater in the ground where it slammed into the desert. 

The second black box from the Air Algerie Flight AH5017 plane that crashed last week may help determine what caused it to go down. The two black boxes are being transferred to France for analysis, the French Embassy in Mali said Sunday. (Burkina Faso Military/AP)
It appears no major plane parts stayed intact after the impact. Most of the plane's metal was left in small, twisted lumps. 

Gen. Gilbert Diendere, a close aide to Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore and head of the crisis committee set up to investigate the disaster, said of the footage: "People expected to see an airplane sitting somewhere, and unfortunately it was debris scattered over 500 metres, which made the search of the area very, very difficult."

Burkina Faso Prime Minister Luc Adolphe Tiao reviewed videos of the wreckage site and said identifying the victims will be challenging.

"It will be difficult to reconstitute the bodies of the victims," Tiao said at a news conference. "The human remains are so scattered."

French officials have dispatched a military unit to secure the crash site. One black box from the aircraft, owned by Spanish company Swiftair and leased by Algeria's flagship carrier​, has already been found amid the rubble.

Bad weather likely to blame for crash

French President Francois Hollande said Friday that nobody survived yesterday's Air Algerie crash. Nearly half of the plane's passengers were French citizens. (Benoit Tessier/Reuters)
France's interior minister said bad weather likely caused the crash, though the government hasn’t ruled out an act of terrorism. Air Algerie Flight AH5017’s Spanish crew had requested permission to change course due to bad weather before the jet disappeared from radar less than an hour after takeoff.

Heavy rain and thunderstorms were reported in the region at the time of the flight. 

France used one of its Reaper drones based in Niger to find the wreckage, which is located in the in the Gossi region near the border with Burkina Faso. The recovered black box is set to travel to the northern Mali city of Gao.

Two helicopter teams also overflew, noting that the wreckage was in a concentrated area, French Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier told France-Info radio on Friday. 

In Lebanon, Intissar Deheini holds a photograph of brother Bilal and one of his children who were among those who died in the Air Algerie crash yesterday. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP/Getty)
Quick discovery of the wreckage is "decisive" in piecing together what happened, the Cuvillier said, describing the aircraft as "disintegrated" and debris "in an apparently small area."

Hollande has said that France will spare no efforts to uncover the cause of the crash — the third major plane disaster around the world within a week.

"There are hypotheses, notably weather-related, but we don't rule out anything because we want to know what happened," Hollande said.

"What we know is that the debris is concentrated in a limited space, but it is too soon to draw conclusions," he added.

French officials said terrorist groups hostile to Western interests do operate in the area, but it's unlikely they downed the plane.

Swiftair jet had passed recent inspection

The Air Algerie MD-83 aircraft was carrying 116 people, including five Canadians, from Burkina Faso to Algeria's capital when it crashed early Thursday over northern Mali. (Kevin Cleyhens/Associated Press)
The MD-83 had passed its annual air navigation certificate renewal inspection in January without any problems, Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said Friday. The European Aviation Safety Agency also carried out a "ramp inspection" — or unannounced spot check — of the plane in June without incident.

Santamaria also said a ramp inspection was done on the plane in Marseille, France, on July 22 — two days before the plane went down.

Ramp inspections "are limited to on-the-spot assessments and cannot substitute for proper regulatory oversight," the EASA website says. "Ramp inspections serve as pointers, but they cannot guarantee the airworthiness of a particular aircraft." 

5 Canadian victims

CBC News confirmed Thursday that four of the five Canadians on board the jet were from the same family: Winmalo Somda, his wife Angelica and their two children, from Quebec, were killed. 

Isabelle Prévost, of Sherbrooke, was travelling with the Somda family when the plane went down over northern Mali. 

Isabelle Prévost, of Sherbrooke, Que., was on board the Air Algerige Flight that crashed over northern Mali, family confirmed to Radio-Canada. Five Canadians were on the plane. (CBC)

Her partner, Danny Frappier, said Thursday that Prévost was on vacation and originally supposed to be travelling with the couple's three children, aged five, seven and nine.

Frappier said he tried to get more information from official sources but that details were not yet clear.

An association representing Burkina Faso's Montreal community says five Canadians and six permanent residents of Canada were on the plane.

The association said all 11 with Canadian links either lived in Quebec or were planning to.

"We're hoping there's part of her body that can be repatriated, some kind of proof that she was really there, that she's really dead, I don't know," he said Thursday.

The couple has three children, aged five, seven and nine.

Mamadou Zoungrana, who resides in Gatineau, Que., said he believes his wife and two young boys aged six and 13, were on board the flight. They are not Canadian citizens, but Zoungrana said they were on the plane as part of their trip to join him in Canada after two years apart.

He said he hoped that they would eventually be granted citizenship after settling with him.

With files from CBC News and Reuters


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