The British government announced Wednesday that a bomb may have brought down the Russian Metrojet that crashed in Egypt Saturday, the Associated Press has reported. Prime Minister David Cameron's office told reporters, "We have become concerned that the plane may well have been brought down by an explosive device." British aviation experts are traveling to the flight's departure location, the Sinai peninsula resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, to evaluate the area's security, according to the AP.
Flight KGL 9268, operated by Metrojet, a Russian airline legally incorporated as Kogalymavia, was bound for St. Petersburg when it broke into pieces in the air. Air traffic controllers didn't receive distress calls from the plane, according to CNN, and it just suddenly disappeared from the radar entirely. Because planes don't just break apart in the air, aviation experts and the media have speculated wildly about what could've caused the crash. The most common and most likely causes were thought to be a bomb, a terrorist attack by the Islamic State, a technical malfunction, pilot error, or some combination of those possible causes. Now that a bomb could be more likely, British officials told the AP that no flights will leave the resort or parts of the surrounding Sinai peninsula until security officials can assess the potential risk.
An unnamed U.S. official familiar with the investigation told CNN that, around the time of the crash, a U.S. satellite detected a heat flash that could've been indicative of an explosion — either in the air or on the ground. But the existence of a heat flash when the plane was in the air wouldn't say definitively that the plane was brought down by a bomb. Aviation experts told CNN that a heat flash could also result from the fuel tank of the plane catching fire in a technical malfunction or from wreckage hitting the ground. A source close to the investigation also told Reuters Africa that it looks as though an explosion did cause the crash, though it's still unclear whether the explosion was linked to fuel or a bomb.
The Russian news agency Interfax also reported that a cockpit recorder had picked up chaotic sounds and other strange noises moments before the crash, according to The Daily Telegraph. But, the newspaper also reported that early tests show no signs of explosive residue on the bodies of the 224 people who were killed on board. However, the plane's voice recorder, which could've recorded the pilots' communications, was damaged in the crash and cannot be analyzed in its current state.
Though no one is saying definitively that a bomb caused the crash, the British government has said that it will still take precautions until it is sure a bomb hadn't passed security. The Sharm El-Sheikh airport has also stepped up security efforts in the meantime, according to the Telegraph.