CINCINNATI – A Procter & Gamble employee has been identified as one of the passengers on an EgyptAir flight that crashed on its way from Paris to Cairo early Thursday.
The employee is Ahmed Helal, a plant manager at Procter & Gamble's office in Amiens, France, P&G’s Global Company Communications Director Damon Jones said.
“We are in touch with the employee’s family and are offering them our full support during this difficult time,” Jones said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with them, and all the affected families.”
A Facebook page for Helal lists him as a resident of France who was born in Alexandria, Egypt. He studied mechanical engineering at American University of Cairo and was married and a father. Jones said Helal was a manager at P&G's fabric care plant in France. The plant is one of the largest in the world and ships Mr. Clean, Febreze, Ariel, Dash and Gama products.
Helal has worked with P&G since July 2000 when he started as a packing lines manager at a plant in Egypt, according to his LinkedIn profile.
EgyptAir Flight 804, an Airbus A320 with 56 passengers and 10 crew members, went down about halfway between the Greek island of Crete and Egypt's northern coastline after takeoff from Charles de Gaulle Airport, authorities said.
There were no immediate signs of any survivors.
Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said the plane made abrupt turns and suddenly lost altitude just before vanishing from radar screens around 2:45 a.m. Egyptian time.
He said the aircraft was at altitude of 37,000 feet, made a 90-degree left turn, then a full 360-degree turn toward the right, dropping from 38,000 to 15,000 feet. It was lost at about 10,000 feet, he said.
An Egyptian search plane later located two orange items believed to be from the aircraft, 230 miles southeast of Crete, a Greek military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Once investigators recover the plane's black box, they'll know what conversations and what alarms, if any, were happening in the cockpit, as well as the plane's operational performance leading to the crash, aviation expert Jay Ratliff said.
“If it was mechanical, we need to find out what it was, so that we can protect all the other people that are going to be traveling in this type of aircraft,” Ratliff said. “But if it was an act of terror, we need to know if it was something smuggled on an aircraft so that we can do everything humanly possible to reduce the likelihood.”
In Cairo, Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathi cautioned that the disaster was still under investigation, but he said the possibility it was a terror attack "is higher than the possibility of having a technical failure."
Alexander Bortnikov, chief of Russia's top domestic security agency, said: "In all likelihood it was a terror attack."
The Egyptian military said it did not receive a distress call, and Egypt's state-run daily Al-Ahram quoted an unidentified airport official as saying the pilot did not send one. The absence of a distress call suggests that whatever sent the aircraft plummeting into the sea was sudden and brief.
The plane's erratic course suggested a number of possibilities, including some kind of catastrophic mechanical or structural failure - whether accidental or the result of sabotage - or a struggle over the controls with a hijacker in the cockpit.
Egyptian security officials said they were running background checks on the passengers to see if any had links to extremists.
Those on board, according to EgyptAir, included 15 French passengers, 30 Egyptians (including Helal), two Iraqis, one Briton, one Kuwaiti, one Saudi, one Sudanese, one Chadian, one Portuguese, one Belgian, one Algerian and one Canadian.
Even if the crash was the result of terrorism, Ratliff said he didn’t believe Cincinnati area residents should feel unsafe flying between Paris and CVG.
“It is much safer today to fly, because we have the full-body imaging scanners and we screen every piece of checked luggage,” Ratliff said.