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Amateur video footage
Watch the Air France plane seconds after take off
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The BBC's Gavin Hewitt
"Even as the Concorde was taking off eyewitnesses saw flames"
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The BBC's Justin Webb
"There was very little left that was recognisable"
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The BBC's David Shukman
On the search for answers
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Wednesday, 26 July, 2000, 19:44 GMT 20:44 UK
Doomed Concorde's last-minute repair
Rescuers remove a body
Bodies were taken to a makeshift mortuary
French officials have revealed that the Concorde engine which was on fire as the plane plunged to the ground had just been repaired.

relatives of victims of the concorde crash
Many relatives attended a memorial service for the dead
The flight had been delayed because the pilot had asked for a thrust reverser on the engine, used to slow the aircraft on landing, to be replaced.

As further details of the plane's final moments emerged, relatives of the 113 people killed gathered for a memorial service in Gonesse close to the crash site.

Relatives hugged each other during the one-hour service, which was attended by French President Jaques Chirac, and heard a message of condolence from the Pope.

Pilot's final words

Concorde in flames
An amateur photographer caught the doomed plane's final descent
Investigators have released details of the final conversation between the control tower and the pilot as he battled to save the doomed plane.

The control tower had given the pilot permission to take off before signalling less than a minute later that the plane was on fire at the rear, said Elisabeth Senot, a deputy prosecutor heading the inquiry.

"The captain replied 'fault in engine number two'", she said.

"After that it seems the flames became extremely large, because the fire was once again signalled to the plane, and the crew replied that they were no longer in a position to stop," she added.

Ms Senot said the crew then decided to make an emergency diversion to Le Bourget airport, to avoid having to make a complete turn to land back at Charles de Gaulle airport.

"It was during this turning manoeuvre that it crashed on the hotel," said Ms Senot.

She was quoting from transcriptions from the plane's cockpit voice recorder - retrieved from the crash site.

Final minutes
Flight AF4590 delayed after pilot requests engine repair
Work is carried out and plane is cleared for take-off
Concorde thunders down runway, but witnesses see smoke
56 seconds after giving clearance, controllers tell crew the plane is on fire
Pilot replies "number two engine failure"
Concorde plummets to ground in flames
Air France said the thrust reverser of engine number two, had been reported defective by the captain during the plane's incoming flight from New York.

Officials said that although there was no spare part available, a replacement was taken from an out-of-service Concorde, and fitted to the faulty engine in about 30 minutes.

Investigators say it was this engine which the captain confirmed had failed, during his brief, final conversation with air traffic controllers.

The charred remains of the dead - most of them German tourists - are being taken to a makeshift mortuary in a theatre in Gonesse.

Personal possessions which survived the inferno are also being recovered. Clothes, shoes, books and bags have been found strewn around the crash site.

The pilot has been praised by witnesses who believe he appeared to be struggling in the final seconds to steer his blazing plane away from a busy road and a heavily populated area.

Support for relatives

Relatives of the dead wishing to visit the scene were expected to arrive later on Wednesday.

Firefighters at Concorde site
Firefighters worked late into Tuesday night to douse the flames
A crisis centre, including psychiatrists and translators, has been set up to provide support for them as they arrive at Charles de Gaulle airport.

French President Jacques Chirac, who by coincidence was leaving the airport at the time of the crash, will also visit the scene.

German politicians, led by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and his entire cabinet, paid their own tribute on Wednesday morning, in a memorial service in Hanover.

The 100 dead passengers - including three children - were nearly all Germans from Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt, Hanover and Dusseldorf.

Three separate investigations into the tragedy will be carried out

  • judicial
  • technical
  • special commission which will run in parallel with the other inquiries

Until this crash, the supersonic jet had a perfect safety record throughout its 31-year history.

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