TOP EXPERTS REVIEW CRASH CAUSES

One of the 19 survivors of last Wednesday’s plane crash at the Barajas airport near Madrid died last Saturday, bringing the number of people killed in the crash to 154. Maria Luisa Estevez Gonzalez had been badly burned when Spanair flight JK 5022, bound for the Canary Islands, crashed just after take-off. Madrid’s health service said that two other survivors remain in a very serious condition. Of the two babies and 20 children who were on board the flight, only three children survived the crash. The authorities have said 19 foreigners from Germany, France, Sweden, Mauritania, Turkey, Brazil, Indonesia, Bulgaria, Italy, Colombia and Gambia were on the plane. The government has promised a full investigation into the crash, which is the country’s worst air accident in 25 years. Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega told reporters last Friday that experts had so far only been able to identify 59 people using fingerprint analysis. Most of the remaining victims will have to be identified using DNA techniques because they were so badly burned in the accident. Investigators believe a chain of faults, rather than a single engine failure, probably caused the crash. Civil aviation chief Manuel Bautista said: “A set of causes probably came together to cause the accident.” According to the media, a video of the crash – which has so far not been made public – showed that an engine had not exploded beforehand, as some witnesses stated. Sr Bautista said he has seen – but would not comment on – the video in question. He said it was not clear whether a fault with a temperature gauge, which led the pilots to abandon their first attempted take-off, could have played a part in the accident. He told reporters: “A problem with a temperature sensor may not matter at all or it can be very important, depending on what other circumstances accompany it. We will have to see what other issues were present.” Sr Bautista said even if one engine had failed, that should not have been enough to bring the plane down. Investigators are now assessing whether a loss of power on take-off caused the crash. The authorities say enough information has been recovered from the crash site, including flight data and voice recorders, to thoroughly examine what happened to Spanair flight JK5022. The results of the investigation, by a team of technicians, with help from US experts, should be known in about a month. Spanair insists the plane was fit to fly, and that there were no short cuts taken before the flight. But the company is bearing the brunt of relatives’ anger. The airline has been in financial difficulty, and only hours before the crash, pilots had threatened to strike over proposals to cut staff. They are also angry about the delay in identifying the victims. However, the government is not prepared to rush the tests in order to avoid the mistakes in identity that were made when a Yak-42 bringing Spanish soldiers home from Afghanistan crashed when flying over Turkey. Thirty of the 62 soldiers who died in the crash were not correctly identified. The first funerals started to take place last Friday, when the official three days of mourning started, with flags at half-mast all over Spain. One of the first to be buried was 21-year-old Isaac Dominguez from Salamanca, who survived the crash but died later in hospital. Hundreds of people attended the funeral of Amalia Filloy and her 14-year-old daughter, also named Amalia. Amalia Filloy made headlines after a firefighter who was one of the first to arrive at the crash scene told reporters that she had begged him to save her 11-year-old daughter Maria first. A funeral was also held in the Canary Islands, the destination of the flight and home to about half of its passengers and crew, for a soldier named David Caballero. Caballero was based in Madrid and was returning to the Canaries for a holiday with his family. Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon announced last Saturday that the archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco, will preside over a memorial service for all of the victims of the crash on September 1st in the Almudena Cathedral.

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