SHARM EL-SHEIKH: Mourners on Wednesday sailed into the Red Sea to throw flowers, photos and, in some cases, the cremated ashes of their relatives lost in a 2004 plane crash that killed all 148 passengers and crew off the coast of this Egyptian resort.
Earlier, French Transport and Tourism Minister Dominique Perben and his Egyptian counterpart Zohair Garanah unveiled a large sculpture made of eight columns in a semicircle that list in French and Arabic the names of the victims, most of them French tourists returning to Paris from the popular resort on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula.
About 150 relatives, most of them flown from France, gathered on a hill overlooking the site of the crash to unveil the monument, which included an aluminum sculpture of birds that oscillate in the wind.
Some choked back tears as they listened to the imam of a local mosque reflect on how large-scale accidents can make people appreciate the value of life. A French priest also gave words of support.
The Boeing 737, operated by the private charter Flash Airlines, crashed on Jan. 2, 2004, killing 134 French tourists as well as a Moroccan and 13 Egyptians.
Perben told families that the Sharm El-Sheikh accident had contributed to upgrade safety regulations on commercial jets.
We must benefit from this tragedy by implementing stricter flight security measures as well as raising technical standards and crew supervision on passenger planes, Perben said.
In his speech, Garaneh told the families that Egypt would shed all the light on how the crash occurred.
Garanah thanked French authorities for their role in the investigation and for standing with Egypt and supporting its tourism after the accident. He invited the international community to continue to provide technical assistance to the Egyptian investigation.
Egyptian investigators said in March that technical failures likely caused the jet s crash, but a French team blamed the Egyptian crew for failing to react quickly enough.
Transcripts from the cabin of Flash Airlines flight FSH604 showed confusion among the crew as the plane banked heavily to the right seconds after take off from Sharm El-Sheikh. The plane crashed into the waters of the Red Sea about three minutes after take off. AP