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The BBC's Jonathan Charles in Paris
"The final few pieces of wreckage are being cleared - all potential clues"
 real 56k

Sunday, 30 July, 2000, 22:54 GMT 23:54 UK
Fuel leak 'caused Concorde flames'
Concorde crash
Some 114 people lost their lives
French accident investigators say that the flames seen spewing from the fatal Air France Concorde flight most likely came from a massive fuel leak, and not one of the engines.


The flames seen after take-off do not originate from an engine but, most likely, from an important fuel leak

BEA statement
France's Accident Investigation Bureau (BEA), which is heading the technical inquiry into the crash, also said that one of the pieces of the jet found on the runway appeared to be part of the fuel tank.

The findings appear to support the theory that the fuel tank - rather than an engine, as previously thought - may have been punctured by a fragment of the Concorde's wheel after a tyre burst as the plane hurtled along the runway.

On Sunday evening, a British Airways Concorde flying from London Heathrow to New York diverted to Gander in Newfoundland after passengers complained about a smell of petrol in the rear of the cabin.

British Airways said that the diversion was "purely a precautionary measure".

Air France has suspended flights by its five remaining Concordes pending investigations into the crash, but British Airways resumed flights, although another Concorde was unable to take off from Heathrow on Sunday because of a refuelling problem.

Fireball

The Air France Concorde crashed just minutes into its flight from Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport on Tuesday, killing all 109 people on board and five people on the ground.

Crash site
The jet ploughed into a small hotel
Flight AF 4590 crashed in a ball of flames into a small hotel in the town of Gonesse, not far from Charles de Gaulle.

The French Transport Ministry said on Friday that it had determined that at least one of the plane's tyres had exploded, "which could have triggered a chain of events, structural damages, a fire and an engine breakdown".

The BEA had also said previously that the stream of flames seen pouring from the jet's left side did not necessarily originate in the engines.

'Point of no return'

Experts citing BEA data said that the ill-fated plane had had no choice but to go through with the take-off.

Debris
Debris was found after the "point of no return"
The BEA said on Sunday that the pilots had given the V1 signal - the point beyond which a plane cannot abort the take-off - 32 seconds after it began travelling down the runway, by which time it had travelled 1,200 metres (4,000 feet).

The debris from the plane was found after that point on the runway.

Airline pilot and air accident investigation expert Francois Grangier said: "Everything happened after the point of no return, which means the pilot had no leeway, he had to continue with the take-off."

He said the only thing that could have kept the pilot from leaving the runway was "a clear assurance that the plane could not for any reason leave the ground, which, however, he did not have at that stage".

Aborting the take-off at that speed would have caused the plane to crash in any case, Mr Grangier added.

Investigations into the crash continued over the weekend, and the French transport minister will meet British and French aviation authorities on Monday to discuss how to prevent a repetition of the accident.

Rescue workers at scene
Rescue workers faced a grim search for bodies
They are expected to agree measures which include more thorough checks on tyres before every Concorde flight.

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