France mourns loss of entire families, victims of plane crash

Monday, January 5, 2004

PARIS -- The Fouchard family, returning from vacation under the Egyptian sun, was all but wiped out, with 11 dead. The Normandy village of Formigny, meanwhile, lost its mayor, killed along with his wife and three children.

Across France, families and communities were mourning Sunday for the 133 French victims of Flash Airlines flight FSH604, which crashed off the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik on Saturday, killing all 148 people on board.

In Egypt, French and Egyptians laid wreaths at the crash site and a flotilla of boats resumed searching Sunday for bodies and debris from the charter jet, believed to be under 2,600 feet of water.

Egypt quickly ruled out terrorism, blaming mechanical failure.

Officials said the 11-year-old Boeing 737 jet checked out normally before the flight. It was one of two 737s operated by Flash, a private Cairo-based carrier that Switzerland banned from its airspace more than a year ago.

"A series of safety shortcomings showed up in a plane of Flash Airlines during a routine security check at Zurich Airport in October 2002," Celestine Perissinotto, spokeswoman for the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Aviation, said Sunday.

Struggling with loss

Egyptian Aviation Minister Ahmed Shafeeq called the Swiss charge "baseless." French Transport Minister Gilles de Robien also cast doubt on the claim, saying it only added to the pain of grieving families.

"I call for extreme caution with this type of announcement that adds emotion for families who certainly don't need it at the moment," the French minister said on Europe-1 radio.

Entire families perished, leaving loved ones, friends and neighbors struggling with loss.

The wife of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Anne-Marie, as well as de Robien, the transport minister, and his junior minister attended a packed church service for the victims on Sunday evening at the famed Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris.

The dead came from across France -- families, groups of friends who escaped winter weather at home to bask in the Egyptian sun during the Christmas and New Year school vacation. Many were clients of FRAM, one of France's biggest tour operators, which said it had 125 passengers aboard the stricken flight.

Holidays in Egypt

From Talant, a town in eastern France, retired legal expert Philippe Fouchard and his wife Annie were killed along with two of their adult children, their spouses and five grandchildren, said a local priest, Father Jacques Bonneviale.

In the Alpine city of Grenoble, the Garrigue family home remained shuttered Sunday. Alain and Christine Garrigue and their children, Simon, 11, and Marjorie, 8, booked their holiday at the last minute, opting for New Year in Egypt after celebrating Christmas in wintry France.

Formigny in Normandy, population 244, was another badly affected community.

Michel Lamy, 41, the village mayor since 1995, was aboard the plane with his wife, Francoise, and their children, Maud, 18, Claire, 15, and Pierre-Louis, 12, said Alain Gueydan, a local official.

Another victim, Lubka Iordanova, 44, was a former fencer for the Bulgarian national team, according the daily Le Parisien. She and her husband traveled together for "several days in the sun," the newspaper said.

The entire Bisson family from Preaux du Perche, a village in the Orne region of Normandy, was killed.

Associated Press writer Bertrand Van Roey contributed to this report from Rouen, France.

Jean-Marie Bisson, a local fish farmer, and his wife, Marie-Danielle, traveled with their children, Romain, 19, Anthony, 16, and twins Sarah and Suzy, 15, said Mayor Pascal Pecchioli. Also killed was Bisson's brother, Daniel, the mayor said.

"It's a village of 550 inhabitants and clearly everybody knows each other," he said. Romain, the eldest child, "was a volunteer firefighter in the village," the mayor added. "The other children took part in all the cultural activities. They were enrolled in the music school in the neighboring town."

Associated Press writer Bertrand Van Roey contributed to this report from Rouen, France.

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