New questions in Madrid air disaster

23rd August 2008, Comments 0 comments

Passengers refused permission to disembark, newspaper says.

23 August 2008

Madrid -- New questions have arisen over the cause of Spanair crash in Madrid which killed 153 people, two days after the accident..

Contrary to the early assumptions that the aircraft had been downed by an engine catching fire on take-off, video footage released by the Spanish national airport company AENA on Friday showed that neither a fire nor an explosion were evident in the plane's engines prior to the crash.

"The plane caught fire only after it hit the ground," the Spanish daily El Pais reported.

The video footage was reported to be of poor quality, however. Investigators continued to look for evidence of causes of the crash.

"Loss of an engine could not have been the cause of the accident," AENA chief Manuel Battista told El Pais. Several factors must have been involved. And it is not at all clear whether one of the engines failed."

The newspaper also reported that the crew had refused to allow a nervous passenger to disembark shortly before the accident occurred.

Ruben Santana, 45, sent a text message to his wife saying: "They won't let me out -- all the doors are closed."

The truck driver had apparently become nervous after discovering that there was a technical problem with the aircraft after the first take-off was aborted.

The ABC newspaper reported that several other passengers had expressed the wish to disembark after the pilot returned the plane to the terminal but had been refused permission by the cabin crew.

Nineteen people, most of whom sustained severe injuries, survived the crash which was the worst air disaster in Spain in 25 years.

The twin-engine MD-82 gained just 50 meters altitude after take-off before veering to one side, crashing into a dried-out valley and bursting into flames.

The El Mundo newspaper reported that the SEPLA pilots' union had complained of "organizational chaos" in the company with a resultant impact on safety.

But SEPLA head Jose Maria Vazquez, himself a Spanair pilot, said the company's financial difficulties could not be blamed for the disaster.

Emilio Valerio, a state prosecutor appointed to look into the crash, predicted the cause of the accident will be cleared up within a month.

The Spanish government has pledged a full inquiry. A memorial service is to be held for the victims on Sept. 3.


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