Egyptian officials confirmed over the weekend that EgyptAir Flight 804 sent out a distress call while it plummeted into the Mediterranean Sea earlier this month. In a note published Sunday on the national State Information Service website, authorities revealed they'd "received satellite reports indicating receiving an electronic distress call from the plane's emergency locator transmitter," USA Today reported.
They weren't the only ones who were alerted right as the plane went down: Officials in the United States received emergency signals too. Lieutenant Jason Wilson, an operations support officer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told Bloomberg five satellites picked up distress calls from the Airbus A320 at 2:36 a.m. local time. Stations in Cyprus and Maryland got the data and "were able to correlate that with the beacon that was on MS 804," Wilson added.
Investigators have begun to use this information to narrow down the area in which they're searching for plane debris. They've pinpointed the crash zone to an area of about 3 miles, the Guardian reported.
Flight 804 was on its way from Paris to Cairo on May 19 when it swerved and crashed into the sea. Sixty-six people were on board and are presumed dead. Investigators have found more than 80 pieces of human remains, some of which had burn marks that could indicate the plane crash was caused by an explosion, anonymous sources told the Associated Press last week. Terrorism has not been ruled out.
Authorities have said their primary goal is to find the bodies of the victims, but they're also frantically looking for the plane's black boxes, which contain crucial data and recordings that could explain why the plane went down. Black boxes' batteries typically die after about a month.
Investigation head Ayman al-Muqaddam told NBC News he was aware of the "difficult conditions" but the international search team was optimistic.
"Even if we pass the 30-day period without locating the black boxes, we will continue to search, because there are similar accidents where they have found black boxes after a few months," he said.