Ethiopian Airlines said it still believed sabotage may have caused the crash of one of its aircraft off Lebanon last month which killed all 90 people on board.
A source familiar with the investigation into the accident told Reuters on Tuesday the team concluded pilot error was to blame after examining the airliner’s flight recorders.
“Ethiopian Airlines does not rule out all possible causes including the possibility of sabotage until the final outcome of the investigation is known,” the company said in a statement, adding that media reports of pilot error were “speculative”.
The Boeing 737-800 crashed minutes after taking off from Beirut en route to Addis Ababa in stormy weather on Jan. 25.
The Lebanese Army said the plane had broken up in the air before plummeting into the sea. Witnesses described it as crashing in a ball of flame.
The airline said only the data recorder had been found.
“The cockpit voice recorder and the aircraft wreckage are not yet retrieved for analysis. It is therefore too early to conclude the cause of the accident,” the company said.
A team of Lebanese, French and Ethiopian officials went to France on Monday to analyse the data recorder, or “black box”.
Lebanese officials say the pilot failed to respond to the control tower’s instruction to change direction, even though he acknowledged the request.
The plane made an unexpected sharp turn before disappearing off the radar, the Lebanese transport minister said at the time.
The eight-year-old plane, carrying mostly Lebanese and Ethiopian passengers, last had a maintenance check on Dec. 25 and no technical problems had been found.
Since retrieving the data recorder from the sea on Sunday, Lebanese and international search teams have located parts of the fuselage, where most of the bodies were believed trapped.
At least 23 bodies have been recovered so far.
Pic: Ethiopian airplane