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BREAKING 8pm 8-20-08 Air Tragedy in Madrid: Spainair Jet Crashes on Takeoff - 153 Killed
Wednesday, Aug 20, 2008 12:09pm
MADRID, SPAIN From CNN (By: Tom Pace, Executive Editor, Talk of the Town) BREAKING: PLANE CRASH 8pm 8-20-08  Tragedy unfolded in the skies above Madrid this morning when a Spanish plane with more than 170 people on board crashed in flames Wednesday at Madrid's Barajas Airport, now with the latest death toll of 153 people, reported by the media. 

CNN reports the crash during take off reportedly followed an explosion on board the budget airline jet, sending up a plume of smoke visible from several kilometers away. 

The Spanair Flight JK5022 was carrying 172 people. There were 19 survivors, including two infants, Development Minister Magdalena Alvarez said. The 19 were being treated at a hospital, Alvaraez said. 

A survivor told Spain's ABC newspaper that she and other passengers heard an explosion as the plane was taking off. "She said they could see the fire, ... and then it was not even a minute or so they heard [something] blow up," reporter Carlota Fomina told CNN.

"They were about 200 meters [660 feet] in the air, and then they were landing but not crashing. They were landing, like, little by little; it was not like they [fell] down suddenly."

The MD-82 was carrying 162 passengers, four non-working crew members and six working crew members, Spanair said. After contacting families, the airline published the names of those aboard on its Web site.

The fatal crash was the first at the airport since December 1983, when 93 people were killed as two Spanish airliners collided.

The airport, eight miles (13 km) northeast of central Madrid, is Spain's busiest, handling more than 40 million passengers a year.

The incident happened as Spanair Flight 5022 was taking off from the main runway, the official said. It was headed to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, a more than two-hour flight. 

The Red Cross said it has set up a field hospital at the airport to treat the injured and is offering psychological counseling to the victims' families.

Clouds of gray and black smoke billowed from the site, and even local media cameras could not get a close view of the accident scene. A helicopter passed overhead, dumping what appeared to be water on reported grassfires sparked by the blaze.

Ambulances were seen speeding in and out of the airport and dozens of emergency vehicles gathered at one entrance point.  Spanish media reported at least 11 fire engines were dispatched to control the blaze.

A survivor told a reporter from Spain's ABC newspaper that she and other passengers heard a loud explosion as the plane was taking off.

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