Venezuela crash kills 152 French passengers

16th August 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 17 (UPDATE: AFP) — All 152 passengers killed in a Colombian jetliner crash in Venezuela Tuesday were French citizens returning to their homes on the Caribbean island of Martinique after a week-long vacation, officials at France's civil aviation authority and their tour company said.

PARIS, Aug 17 (UPDATE: AFP) — All 152 passengers killed in a Colombian jetliner crash in Venezuela Tuesday were French citizens returning to their homes on the Caribbean island of Martinique after a week-long vacation, officials at France's civil aviation authority and their tour company said.

 

French President Jacques Chirac orders top official to Martinique

All 160 people onboard — 152 passengers plus an eight-person Columbian crew — died in the crash in western Venezuela. Initial indications suggest the plane's two engines failed.

 

French authorities in Martinique and the General Directorate for Civil Aviation (DGAC) in Paris had originally put the number of passengers at 153, all residents of Martinique.

 

But one woman escaped the deadly crash of a Colombian airliner in Venezuela Tuesday because she decided at the last minute to forgo a holiday and stay near her ailing son.

Gertrude Romain, a retired teacher, was wrongly listed yesterday as a passenger on the West Caribbean Airways flight.

 

French President Jacques Chirac said in a statement Tuesday he was "deeply saddened" by this "shocking catastrophe".

 

"The president, in the name of all the French, expresses his sad condolences and his profound compassion to the families of the victims and to those close to them," Chirac said in his statement.

 

The Martinique tour company which had chartered the MD-82 aircraft, Globe Trotters, said the passengers had been returning after spending a week vacationing in Panama.

 

A government official on the island, Maurice Tubul, said a definitive list of the passengers was being drawn up. He said France's air accident investigation office was sending three people to Venezuela and two to Martinique to probe the causes of the crash.

 

Chirac's statement said the minister in charge of overseas French territories, François Baroin, had been ordered to go to the island immediately.

 

The French foreign ministry in Paris had opened a crisis centre to provide information to relatives of those who had been on board, according to Chirac's statement. The centre gathered officials from the foreign, interior, transport and overseas territories ministries.

 

Transport minister Dominique Perben said the Colombian plane had been inspected twice by France authorities in Martinique over recent months and no mechanical anomaly had been detected.

 

Martinique resident Romain explained yesterday's discrepancy between tolls provided by French and Colombian authorities, listing 153 and 152 passengers dead, respectively.

 

"I have a child who was having health problems. At the last minute, the day before, I decided not to go," Romain told Radio Caribbean International. "That's why, I suppose, my name remained on the passenger list."

 

Romain and a group of former schoolmates regularly took holidays together.

 

"This morning my husband was saying that our friends would be able to give us their impressions of the trip," Romain said. "Then we heard the news. I'm devastated."

 

Copyright AFP

 

Subject: French news, Venezuela, Martinique, airline, crash, Chirac

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