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Page last updated at 16:36 GMT, Friday, 22 August 2008 17:36 UK

'Chain of faults' in Madrid crash

Relatives of victims of the Spanish air crash
Many relatives have been unable to identify their loved ones

Spanish investigators believe a chain of faults, rather than a single engine failure, probably caused the Madrid air crash, which killed 153 people.

"A set of causes probably came together to cause the accident," Spain's civil aviation chief Manuel Bautista said.

Spanish media said a video of the crash showed that an engine had not exploded beforehand, as some witnesses stated.

A memorial service will be held in Madrid's Almudena Cathedral for the victims of the crash on 1 September.

DNA tests will be needed to identify many of those killed in Wednesday's disaster, the Spanish government says.

Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said experts had so far only been able to identify 59 people using fingerprint analysis.

Many of the bodies were severely burned after the plane crashed on take-off, setting a field alight.

I lifted my head and all I saw were scattered bodies
Ligia Palomino
Crash survivor

Officials from Spain's Civil Aviation Authority, quoted in El Pais newspaper, said the jet only caught fire after it hit the ground.

That contradicts witness accounts that an engine was ablaze during take off.

Mr Bautista said he has seen - but would not comment on - the video in question.

He said it was not clear whether a fault with a temperature gauge, which led the pilots to abandon their first attempted take-off, could have played a part in the accident.

"A problem with a temperature sensor may not matter at all or it can be very important, depending on what other circumstances accompany it," Mr Bautista told the Associated Press news agency.

"We will have to see what other issues were present."

Mr Bautista said even if one engine had failed, that should not have been enough to bring the plane down.

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Footage of the immediate aftermath of the crash site

The authorities say enough information has been recovered from the crash site, including flight data and voice recorders, to thoroughly examine what happened to Spanair flight JK5022.

The results of the investigation, by a team of technicians, with help from US experts, should be known in about a month, the head of the inquiry team said.

Spanair insists the plane was fit to fly, and that there were no short cuts taken before the flight.

However the company has borne the brunt of relatives' anger. The airline has been in financial difficulty, and only hours before the crash, pilots had threatened to strike over proposals to cut staff.

Engulfed in flames

The air disaster was Spain's worst in 25 years.

The Spanair flight, bound for Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, took off on Wednesday at lunchtime with 172 people on board, including 10 crew members.

Only 19 of those survived. It seems they were thrown from the plane into a stream, thereby escaping the flames that engulfed the rest of the wreckage.

Two babies and 20 children were on board the flight, according to Spanair. Three children survived the crash.

Nineteen foreigners from at least 11 countries were on the plane, the Spanish government said. The countries include Germany, France, Sweden, Mauritania, Turkey, Brazil, Indonesia, Bulgaria, Italy, Colombia and Gambia.

Map and satellite image of Madrid airport, plus MD82 graphic
MD82 AIRCRAFT
Passengers 150-170
Cruise speed 504mph (811km/h)
Length 45.1m (148ft)
Height 9m (29.5ft)
Wing-span 32.8m (107.6ft)
Maximum range 2,052 nautical miles (3,798km)




SEE ALSO
Jet passed 'point of no return'
21 Aug 08 |  Europe
In pictures: Madrid's plane crash
21 Aug 08 |  In Pictures
Air disasters timeline
21 Aug 08 |  Special Reports

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