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14 bodies ID'd so far in Spain plane crash

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[August 21, 2008]  MADRID, Spain (AP) -- Spain began three days of mourning Thursday for the 153 people who died when a jetliner crashed shortly after takeoff in the nation's worst air disaster in nearly 25 years.

Only 19 people survived Wednesday's crash of a Spanair plane bound for the Canary Islands.

CivicDevelopment Minister Magdalana Alvarez said Thursday that 14 bodies have been identified so far. She said the process could take several days because many bodies were burned beyond recognition and forensic teams are using DNA techniques.

Flags in Madrid flew at half-staff and a silent vigil was planned for noon. The king and queen planned to visit a makeshift morgue where relatives were waiting to claim the remains of their loved ones.

Some mourners spent the whole night at the morgue.

Spanair said it did not know the cause of the crash.

The Spanish newspaper El Pais said one of the two engines failed and may have caught fire during takeoff. La Vanguardia said witnesses saw the plane's left engine explode and catch fire before the aircraft went down.

Experts said this kind of plane is designed to fly with just one engine in an emergency, raising questions over whether something else may have caused the crash.

Spanair confirmed Thursday that an MD-82 was forced to make an emergency landing 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 Wednesday's flight.


A company official speaking on condition of anonymity said he did not know if the same plane was involved in both cases. After the crash, the company now has eight MD82s.

The airline said the pilot of the U.S.-built MD-82 airliner initially reported a problem with a gauge that measures temperature outside the plane. The takeoff was delayed while the problem was repaired.

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During the second takeoff attempt, the plane crashed at the end of the runway, burning and largely disintegrating.

From Washington, the National Transportation Safety Board said it will send a team of investigators to assist in the probe.

The morgue has been set up at Madrid's main convention center -- the same facility used for relatives to identify bodies after the March 11, 2004 Islamic terror attacks that killed 191 people on Madrid commuter trains.

Spanair chartered a plane in the Canary Islands to fly in relatives of people killed in the crash.

Spanair is Spain's second largest airline, after Iberia. It is a money-loser, though, and owner SAS put it up for sale more than a year ago, although it failed to find a buyer.


A cost-saving plan calls for withdrawing older, less fuel-efficient planes like some of its MD-82s, eliminating some routes and laying off a third of its 3,000-member workforce.

Hours before the crash, the Spanish pilots union SEPLA said Spanair pilots might go on strike to protest uncertainty over their future. The union statement was withdrawn after the crash.

[Associated Press; By DANIEL WOOLLS]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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