One was a Canadian-Egyptian manager with IBM, returning to Cairo from a vacation in Paris. Another had been a volunteer firefighter in France. A third was a 26-year-old flight attendant.
They were among the 66 people aboard EgyptAir Flight 804, a red-eye on its way from Paris to Cairo on May 19 when the jet suddenly plunged into the sea.
The cause of the crash remains undetermined, and the scraps of evidence that have been made public have provided not answers but only fodder for dispute. Speaking to reporters less than a day after the plane went down, Egypt’s Aviation Minister said a terrorist attack was a more likely explanation than a technical failure. On May 24, a senior Egyptian forensic official told the AP that the remains recovered so far suggested an explosion had brought the plane down. But other Egyptian officials immediately disputed that statement.
French prosecutors have opened an investigation but have yet to declare a cause. The item that could provide clues to the plane’s final moments, the flight recorder, was being sought on the seafloor.
As the search goes on, victims’ families are forced to mourn without the bodies of their relatives–mourning that photographer Jonathan Rashad has captured. Hany Farag, 58, attended the funeral in Cairo on May 22 for his daughter, flight attendant Yara Hany. “I didn’t know that my daughter had so many friends,” he says. “She was full of life. She was an angel. I can’t say more about her. It’s painful.”
Another passenger was Marwa Hamdy, 42, a manager with IBM in Cairo. Born in Canada to Egyptian parents, Hamdy attended the American University in Cairo, where she met Takreem Mortada, who would become her husband. A mother of three, she had been returning to Egypt after a visit with a sister who lived in Paris.
Her husband and three sons described Hamdy as a warm soul devoted to family and charity work who loved spending time in Paris. “She was brave, kind, caring and inspiring,” says her 12-year-old son Ali. A day before the jet crash, he had texted his mother, “I can’t wait to see you tomorrow.”
— With reporting by Jonathan Rashad/Cairo
Jared Malsin is TIME‘s Middle East Bureau Chief. Follow him on Twitter @jmalsin.
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