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Madrid plane crash claims 153 victims

Thousands hold silent tributes around Spain; government announces 3 days of mourning

 The tail of the Spanair jet that crashed on take off at Madrid airport is seen on Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008. A Spanair airliner bound for the Canary I...
 A part of the fuselage of the Spanair jet that crashed on take off at Madrid airport is lifted by a crane on Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008. A Spanair airl...

Spain Airport Accident

The tail of the Spanair jet that crashed on take off at Madrid airport is seen on Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008. A Spanair airliner bound for the Canary I...

Spain Airport Accident

A part of the fuselage of the Spanair jet that crashed on take off at Madrid airport is lifted by a crane on Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008. A Spanair airl...

Distraught relatives of the 153 victims of the Madrid holiday jet disaster struggled yesterday to identify burned body parts as investigators scoured the wreckage for clues.
Cranes lifted debris of the Spanair MD-82 from a field next to the Madrid-Barajas airport runway as Spanish media highlighted the financial problems and cost-cutting measures carried out by the budget carrier.
Thousands of people held silent tributes to the victims in Madrid and other cities while three days of national mourning has been declared.
"Inferno at Barajas," was the headline used by newspapers to describe the crash of the jet, carrying 162 passengers - including two babies and 20 other children - and 10 crew on Wednesday afternoon.
Having returned to the terminal once because of a technical problem, the jet was taking off for Las Palmas in the Canary Islands when it veered to the right of the runway before breaking up in flames.
Transport Minister Magdalena Alvarez said the jet had got about 50 meters (200 feet) off the ground before it came down. She said 153 people were killed and 19 injured, four of whom remain in "very serious" condition.
The bodies were taken to a Madrid congress center, where the 191 victims of the March 2004 Madrid train bombing were also placed.
Relatives and friends, many brought on a special flight from Las Palmas, were taken to the makeshift morgue to identify the remains, accompanied by psychologists.
One Red Cross psychologist described the atmosphere was "calm" but the identification process was slow.
Alvarez said it would take two days to identify all the victims. "Up to now they have been identified with their fingerprints and in certain cases by there will have to be DNA tests," she said.
One of the 19 survivors recalled seeing bodies scattered everywhere as she escaped the burning wreckage.
"I lifted my head and all I saw were scattered bodies," Ligia Palomino, a doctor, told El Pais newspaper.
Palomino said she was only semi-conscious after the crash but woke up when a fuel tank exploded.
The authorities did not immediately confirm media reports that the left engine was on fire during takeoff.
Some experts said the fire in the engine may not be enough to explain the accident.
Spanish media said the pilot had earlier signaled a malfunction in an exterior temperature gauge.
Alvarez said the plane had taxied to the runway once, before turning back because of a technical problem. Spanair maintenance staff then cleared the aircraft for takeoff.
Asked by national radio whether the company may be negligent, she said "I dare not say that."
But Spanish media criticized the airline.
"The crisis at Spanair led to a tragedy with 153 dead," El Mundo said on its front page. "The technical inspection by Spanair could have committed a fatal error."
Spanair, Spain's second largest airline, which is owned by Scandinavian carrier SAS, recently proposed shedding almost a quarter of its 4,000 staff because of the fuel price rise crisis and reduced demand. Its pilots had threatened a strike over conditions.
The two black boxes were found and were to be analyzed, as investigators scoured the wreckage for clues.
A spokeswoman at Barajas airport meanwhile said operations returned to normal yesterday after delays and cancellations.
Spanair released the list of passengers late Wednesday, but not their nationalities.
Spanish media said four Germans, two Swedes, a Chilean and a Colombian were among the survivors. Authorities in Paris said three French nationals were killed.


Updated : 2021-06-19 22:51 GMT+08:00