BEIRUT, Lebanon (Los Angeles Times) Airlines flight that crashed into the sea early Monday during a fierce winter storm.
The Boeing 737-800 bound for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, was carrying eight crew members and 82 passengers when it crashed into the Mediterranean shortly after takeoff from Beirut amid hail and thunder. The U.S.-born wife of the French ambassador to Lebanon was among the passengers.
Authorities have yet to find the flight data and voice recorders, or black boxes, that could yield clues about the cause of the crash. But officials said the ferocious overnight storm that blanketed the small country’s mountains with snow was likely a major factor.
“Bad weather was apparently the cause of the crash,” said Defense Minister Elias Murr, according to local news outlets. “We have ruled out foul play so far.”
Lebanon’s airport has been a subject of controversy because of allegations that the Shiite Muslim political group maintains a security presence there to oversee the importation of weapons. No flights originating in Lebanon land in North America, largely because of security concerns.
But Lebanese and Ethiopian officials quickly discounted the possibility of terrorism or sabotage in the downing of the plane. A spokesman for the Addis Ababa government said the airline had received no prior threats.