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Thursday, September 16, 1999 Published at 23:15 GMT 00:15 UK


Crash passengers fly home

Britannia flight BY226A at Gerona airport

Holidaymakers who were on board the Britannia airliner which crashed at a Spanish airport have flown home to Cardiff.

Britannia Airways laid on a special flight to pick up the 26 passengers, who said there was "no way" they would have continued with their holiday on the Costa Brava.

The BBC's Francesca Kastelitz: "Many are still traumatised by their experience"
Few wanted to talk about the accident, in which their Boeing 757 split into three after skidding off the runway at Gerona airport on Tuesday night.

But one, Jason Midwinter from Port Talbot, said that it had been a "total nightmare".

"The plane should never have tried to land in Gerona and if it wasn't for the soft muddy field, we would all be dead," he said.

Investigators sift debris

None of the 236 passengers and nine crew was seriously injured in the accident, although 55 people were treated in local hospitals.

Spanish and British air accident investigators say it will be at least a week before they publish preliminary findings.

They have been sifting through the wreckage of the plane, which remained in the mud at the airport on Thursday night.

A Gerona airport spokesman said the drama happened at the height of a thunderstorm and on the pilot's second attempt at landing.

A spokeswoman for Britannia Airways refused to comment on reports that the pilot had been directed to divert to Barcelona moments before landing.

Passengers spoke of panic and screaming as the plane broke up. Many feared it would explode but it is thought the heavy rain and thick mud prevented the fuel tanks catching fire.

Authorities criticised

Some passengers criticised the airport authorities for the way they dealt with the aftermath of the accident.

The Spanish authorities admitted delays in locating the jet, but denied reports of passengers waiting an hour for emergency services in torrential rain.

"The problem was locating the aircraft," a terminal official said.

"Because visibility was so bad in the storm it was ten minutes before it was realised that the aircraft had come off the runway.

"It then took more time to locate the plane. Once that was done the emergency services were on the scene immediately."

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