Identification Continues as Last Bodies Retrieved in Madrid Crash | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 22.08.2008
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Identification Continues as Last Bodies Retrieved in Madrid Crash

Rescue workers have recovered the last two bodies from the Spanair plane crash site at Madrid's Barajas airport, rescue workers said. The difficult process of identifying the victims is now underway.

Spanair workers observe five minutes of silence for the victims of the plane crash, at the airline's headquarters in Palma de Majorca

Spanair workers observe five minutes of silence for the victims

Authorities on Friday, Aug. 22, continued the work of ascertaining the identity of victims of Wednesday's deadly Spanair crash in Madrid. The last two bodies recovered on Thursday were those of an infant and an adult, said Benjamin Olivares, head of the airport's fire department.

The find did nothing to change the previous official death toll of 153, but now the search for any further victims could be halted, he said.

Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said that so far 39 of the dead have been identified. Fifteen of them have been handed over for burial.

De le Vega was speaking after a crisis meeting of the Spanish cabinet Thursday at which it was decided that an office to help the relatives of the victims would be set up.

King Juan Carlos I shakes hands with a fireman

King Juan Carlos I met with members of the fire brigade that was called to the crash site

There were 19 survivors of the original passenger and crew total of 172 on board the MD-82 plane.

Painstaking process

A Red Cross spokeswoman said the identification of bodies would take time.

"Many of the bodies are so charred that identification will only be possible with the help of DNA analysis," she said.

A temporary morgue has been set up in an exhibition hall in the capital to facilitate the process.

Specialists from Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) are to help Spanish authorities identify bodies, the German Foreign Office said Thursday.

Spain had accepted an offer by the German government overnight, a spokeswoman said. She did not confirm whether German victims were among the dead.

The Spanish government later said 14 foreigners had died in the crash, including five Germans, two French citizens, and citizens from Italy, Turkey, Bulgaria, Brazil, Mauritania, Gambia and Indonesia.

Cause still unknown

Experts have begun attempting to find the cause of the worst Spanish air disaster in 25 years. The Spanair aircraft apparently burst into flames and broke up immediately after takeoff.

Spanair flight JK 5022, which was cross-listed with German carrier Lufthansa as LH 2554, had been bound for Spain's Canary Islands.

Spanair aircraft

Spanair was facing financial difficulties

Spanish Transport Minister Magdalena Alvarez said the flight had had technical problems prior to takeoff, and that the pilot had already aborted one attempt at departure. The minister did not say what the technical problems involved, but media reports indicated that an exterior temperature gauge had undergone last-minute repairs.

Spain's El Pais newspaper reported that a fire in one of the aircraft's engines may have caused the crash. Spanish media said air crash investigators have recovered two black box flight recorders and would study the data for clues to the disaster.

Spain, Europe mourn victims

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero called a three-day period of mourning and visited the scene where relatives were being brought in by special flights to identify the dead on Thursday.

Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia also expressed condolences for the victims.

Air traffic meanwhile returned to normal at Barajas airport Thursday.

Spanair is facing financial difficulties, with its Scandinavian parent company SAS reportedly trying to find a buyer for the ailing airline. Spanair was in the process of reducing staff by a third and shrinking its number of routes.

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