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'The plane came to a sharp stop, I heard a horrible noise' PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 22 August 2008

Madrid crash

Survivors of the Madrid plane crash, in which 153 people lost their lives, tell how they escaped death

The Guardian Online

From his hospital bed, Alfredo Jesús Acosta Mendiola was calling out for his parents.

The eight-year-old was one of the youngest of the 19 survivors of yesterday's plane crash at Madrid's Barajas airport, in which 153 passengers and crew lost their lives.
Alfredo's father Alfredo Acosta Sierra died in the crash and his mother, G Rodriguez Mendiola has not been identified.
One of three children in hospital, Alfredo was dragged from the wreckage of the burning plane by emergency workers, and suffered only a broken leg.
Doctors at Madrid's Niño Jesús hospital, where Alfredo was being treated, described his condition as "good".
One airport worker, who gave her name only as Maria, helped in Alfredo's rescue.
"He is in a good condition, knows what is happening. He is just asking for his parents," she said.
Four of the survivors were in a critical condition, six others were in a serious condition. Investigators were still searching for the remains of two others near the crash site.
As investigations continued today into the possible causes of the crash, other survivors told how they escaped death.
Ligia Palomino, 41, a Colombian who fled her own country after her journalist mother received threats, said she heard strange noises as the plane took off.
Palomino, from Madrid, who suffered a broken right leg, told El Pais newspaper: "I grabbed the arm of my partner Jose, and looked at Gema, my sister-in-law. Then the plane came to a sharp stop. I heard a horrible noise. I was thrown forward."
She was half unconscious when an "enormous explosion" woke her and the plane caught fire.
"I reached for Jose, put out my hand to touch him. I saw what looked like a doll, which fell on the ground. I realised this person was dead. I knew it wasn't Jose."
Palomino, a doctor who works for the emergency services, said she felt an enormous heat. All around her others were crying and pleading for help.
When emergency workers arrived to save passengers Palomino recognised her colleagues. She was travelling to Gran Canaria to spend a week's holiday and celebrate her 42nd birthday next Sunday.
Among the other survivors was Swedish laboratory technician Anna Stefanides, 56, who was in a serious condition in hospital with multiple injuries.
She had travelled to Spain from her home in Norway to see friends. Her husband, a doctor, was now travelling to Madrid to be at her bedside.
Among relatives of the victims, there was mounting anger amid suggestions the plane had suffered problems just before flight.
"I'd kill the bastard who did this," a man shouted at Spanish state television cameras outside a makeshift morgue where relatives were gathering to identify the remains of their loved ones.
Another person said: "Knowing the plane was bad, it took off with my seven-year-old niece."
Spanair says it does not know the cause of the crash. It says the pilot of the US-built MD-82 airliner initially reported a problem with a gauge that measures temperature outside the plane. This delayed the takeoff while the problem was repaired.
The plane then crashed at the end of the runway during the second takeoff attempt, burning and largely disintegrating.
The Spanish newspaper El Pais says one of the two engines failed and may have caught fire during takeoff.
Spanair confirmed an MD-82 was forced to make an emergency landing last Saturday on a flight from Lanzarote in the Canary Islands to Madrid because of problems with both of its engines. The plane landed in the nearby island of Gran Canaria, the destination of yesterday's flight.
A company official said he did not know if the same plane was involved in both cases.
The grim task of identifying the bodies of those who died may take two days. Only 37 of the 153 bodies have so far been formally identified. No Britons have so far been identified among the victims or survivors.
Spanair chartered a plane from the Canary Islands to fly in relatives of people killed in the crash.

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