Missing Air Algerie plane disappears from radar, believed to have crashed

BY Anna Christiansen and Andrew Troast  July 24, 2014 at 2:54 PM EDT

Updated July 24 at 2:54 p.m. EDT

Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita announced shortly before 2p.m. EST that the wreckage of flight AH5017 had been found in the northern desert region of Mali.

“I have just been informed that the wreckage has been found between Aguelhoc and Kidal,” said Keita during a formal meeting. No other information has been released.

Updated July 24 at 2:30 p.m. EDT

Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban president Raul Castro, was not on board Flight AH5017, as originally reported by Ouagadougou airport on their Facebook page. The post has since been deleted.

Castro told television network TeleSUR she was “at a meeting, happy and healthy.’

Original report July 24, 12:53 p.m. EDT
Flight AH5017, an Air Algerie airliner chartered by Spain’s Swiftair, has gone missing. It left Burkina Fasso’s capital Ouagadougou, destined for Algiers, Algeria, with 116 passengers on board. The plane was 18 years old, and one of five MD-83s owned by the Madrid-based airline.

The flight was carrying 50 French citizens. The provisional passenger list also named 24 people from Burkina Faso, eight Lebanese, four Algerians, two from Luxembourg, one Belgian, one Swiss, one Nigerian, one Cameroonian, one Ukrainian, and one Romanian.

The Ouagadougou airport posted on their Facebook page (in French) that Mariela Castro, daughter of current Cuban president Raul Castro and niece of Fidel Castro, was on board the flight. An LGBT activist, Mariela is the director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education in Havana.

A tweet released from Air Algerie (in French) at 10:15 EST claims they believe the flight would have crashed in the Tilemsi region, 70 kilometers from Gao in northeastern Mali.

As of 10:52 EST the French foreign minister said in a statement that the Air Algerie plane has “probably crashed.” French jets are part of the effort scouring the area for the missing plane.

Crew members of flight AH5017 reportedly radioed to request a change in flight plan due to storms, shortly before contact was lost. The National Weather Service reports there were thunderstorms on the route the plane is believed to have taken.

This is the fourth passenger plane disaster to make headlines recently. Malaysian airlines flight MH17 was shot down exactly a week ago while flying over the Donetsk region of the Ukraine. On Wednesday at least 48 people were killed and several more were injured when a Taiwanese plane made an emergency landing. Malaysian airlines flight MH370 went missing in March near the Indian Ocean and has still not been found.