Few survive air disaster
Only 26 people have escaped alive after a plane carrying 175 people burst into flames shortly after taking off from Madrid's airport, a rescue official has said.
Only 26 people have escaped alive after a plane carrying 175 people burst into flames shortly after taking off from Madrid’s airport, a rescue official has said.
There are fears that the remaining 149 on board, including two babies, may have perished inside the fuselage after it landed off the side of a runway at Barajas airport.
The extent of the tragedy was described by a worker of airport owner AENA who witnessed the disaster.
“The plane was totally broken apart, it was all full of bodies,” the worker told El Pais newspaper.
Two civil guards returning from the scene of the stricken aircraft told the same newspaper: “It doesn’t look anything like a plane – it’s horrific – everything is burnt.
“It’s the closest to hell that I’ve seen. The bodies were boiling hot, we burnt ourselves collecting them.”
Firefighters have now put out the flames at the crash scene and are continuing to dampen down the scene.
The accident happened as Spanair Flight JK-502 2 was taking off at 14:45 local time (1245 GMT), bound for Gran Canaria.
The plane was a shared-code flight with Lufthansa’s LH-255.
Witnesses said the left engine caught fire as the aircraft reached maximum speed and started to lift, causing the plane to crash to the ground and break into two parts.
According to El Pais, the disaster occurred during a second attempt at take off.
An earlier attempt had to be averted after technical issues, which resulted in an inspection of the plane.
There were 175 people on board the Spanair MD-82 plane, 166 passengers and nine crew members.
The names of the passengers and crew on board the aircraft will not be released until all next-of-kin has been notified.
A makeshift morgue was being set up at the city’s main convention center, officials said.
Television footage showed relatives arriving at the airport in tears.
Passengers were reportedly warned they may need to change planes.
Local journalist Bill Bond said Spanair was a major Spanish airline that has been running for 20 years.
“It flies throughout Spain and internationally and has a good accident record,” he said.
However, the MD-80 series does not have a great safety record.
Aviation expert Professor Joseph Lampel has told Sky News: “It appears at the moment to have been some sort of engine problem.
“It’s rare, but not unheard of. The focus will now be on engine maintenance.”
Malcolm Ginsberg, editor of Air and Business Travel, said: “It appears to have been a normal sort of day, so I can only imagine there must have been some sort of mechanical problem.”