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153 holiday makers killed in Spanair crash -

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153 holiday makers killed in Spanair crash

Broadcast: 21/08/2008

Reporter: Stephanie Kennedy

Spanish investigators have found the black boxes of the Spanair flight which crashed in the Spanish
capital, Madrid last night killing 153 people. While they are trying to find out why the plane
aborted an initial take-off attempt, relatives and medical staff are trying to identify the badly
burned bodies.


LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: It's Spain's worst air disaster in decades. One witness described the scene
as being like hell.

Pilots have started laying blame, taking aim at what they're calling a "culture of chaos" at the

And while investigators are trying to find out why the plane aborted an initial take-off attempt,
relatives and medical staff are trying to identify the badly burned bodies.

ABC correspondent, Stephanie Kennedy reports.

STEPHANIE KENNEDY, REPORTER: Thick plumes of smoke billowed above the wreckage of Spanair flight
5022. A grim line of emergency vehicles rushed to the scene as 300 firefighters, paramedics and
police officers desperately tried to rescue survivors.

Helicopters were called in to dump water on the burning fuselage.

ERVIGIO CORRAL, HEAD OF EMERGENCY SERVICES (translated): You couldn't distinguish that there was an
aircraft there apart from the remains of the tail. If you didn't know, you wouldn't have been able
to say there was a plane. There was nothing of fuselage.

STEPHANIE KENNEDY: Packed with holiday-makers, the Spanair flight was bound for Las Palmas in the
Canary Islands. It came down during take-off from Madrid airport. The plane swerved off the runway
and burst into flames. It crashed into a field, the black scorched earth evidence of the fierceness
of the blaze.

The plane was carrying six crew and 166 passengers, including 22 children. More than 150 people
died, while 19 survived the crash. They were rushed to local hospitals, many suffering from severe

ALAN GEMMELL, EYEWITNESS: I was actually on the plane behind the one that crashed and we were
coming into the land as it was taking off.

STEPHANIE KENNEDY: The plane had earlier attempted to take off but returned to the terminal with
technical problems. An hour later it made a second take-off attempt.

There are reports there was a fire or explosion in the left engine. In Las Palmas, distraught
relatives were left waiting for news.

VICTIM'S RELATIVE (translated): Try to imagine. We said goodbye to a 23-year-old boy. Today was his
birthday and now you don't have him any more. So try to imagine how I feel.

STEPHANIE KENNEDY: A long convoy transported the victim's remains to a makeshift mortuary. Family
members came to identify the dead.

RELATIVE 2 (translated): Curse Spanair. They killed them.

RELATIVE 3 (translated): We just want justice. We just want justice.

STEPHANIE KENNEDY: Spain's Prime Minister cut short his holiday to visit the scene of the crash.

JOSE LUIS RODRIGUEZ ZAPATERO, SPANISH PRIME MINISTER (translated): The Government will make all its
efforts to support the families in this hard moment as they've received the news of such tragedy.

STEPHANIE KENNEDY: The airline is Spain's second largest. This is Spanair's first fatal accident
since it began operating in 1986. But recently it's been plagued with problems. Just hours before
the fatal crash, Spanair pilots threatened to strike over staff shortages, dangerously long working
hours and cost-cutting plans for the airline.

MARCUS HEDBLOM, MANAGING DIRECTOR, SPANAIR: This is probably the worst thing that can happen when
you are in aviation and this is also one of the most terrible accidents that we have seen during
this year in Europe.

I would just like to say that we are extremely sorry and our thoughts are with the families and we
will do everything we can to support them.

STEPHANIE KENNEDY: As investigators comb the charred wreckage in the search for clues into the
cause of the Spanair crash, three days of national mourning have been declared in Spain.

Stephanie Kennedy, Lateline.