(AccuWeather) — Frequent lightning was in the area of Monday morning’s Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409 crash into the Mediterranean Sea, according to data compiled by AccuWeather.com.
“A significant bolt was detected at 2:37 a.m., local time, 10 miles South of the Beirut Airport and 2.5 miles west of the coastal town of Na’ameh,” said AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Henry Margusity.
There were rain showers accompanied by a considerable amount of thunder and wind in the vicinity of Beirut at the time of the crash. Such weather is very conducive to lightning strikes.
“Turbulent weather, such as the thunderstorms that were in the area during the time of the crash, allows the separation of charges, which causes lightning to occur,” said AccuWeather.com meteorologist Mike Pigott.
The strike was in line with the runway, and occurred shortly after the plane left Beirut at 2:30 a.m.
It appears that this bolt was directly in the flight path of the plane, which was headed to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The Boeing 737-800 had approximately 90 people aboard. Several bodies have been recovered, and no survivors have been reported.
Lebanon’s Transportation Minister Ghazi Aridi told the Associated Press that the pilot made “a very fast and strange turn before disappearing completely from the radar.” It is unclear as to why that happened, but officials have ruled out terrorism.
According to the World Wide Lightning Location Network out of the University of Washington, data showed severe lightning in the Lebanon area hours within the time of the crash.
“Eight WWLLN sensors detected this particular stroke, which indicates the stroke was stronger than average,” said Professor Robert Holzworth, Director of the World Wide Lightning Location Network.
A relative of one of the passengers commented that the plane should have been delayed at take off due to bad weather.
“They should have delayed the flight for an hour or two to protect the passengers. There had been strong lightning bolts and we hear that lightning strikes planes especially during take offs.”
Commercial jets are equipped with special lightning protection, including aircraft skins made of electricity-conducive aluminum, Fuel tanks and any piping carrying fuel are also protected by a skin that is thick enough to withstand sparking.
According to the Scientific American, it is estimated that each airplane in the U.S. commercial fleet is stuck by lightning more than once each year.
(Story by AccuWeather.com’s Carly Porter and Gina Cherundolo, with content contributed by Professor Robert Holzworth, Director of the World Wide Lightning Location Network. wwlln.net.)