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Wed, Aug 20, 2008

Death Toll Climbs To 153 In Spanair Accident

Plane Aborted First Takeoff, Returned For Maintenance

ANN REALTIME REPORTING 08.20.08 2130 EDT: Reports from the scene of what appears to be one of the worst aviation disasters to strike Spain paint a gruesome picture... as government officials now say at 153 passengers onboard a Spanair airliner were lost when the plane departed the runway on takeoff from Madrid Wednesday afternoon.

Spanair, a low-cost airline owned by Scandinavia's SAS, confirmed to Bloomberg 162 passengers, six crewmembers and four nonrev employees were onboard the heavily-loaded MD-82. CNN reported at least 26 survivors have been transported to area hospitals, though that total now appears to have been optimistic.

The accident aircraft was 15 years old, and had its last heavy maintenance check performed in January. Though reports from the accident site continue to be in flux, most state the airliner's left engine caught fire as the plane sped down the runway.

ANN will continue to update this story throughout the day.

Wednesday's accident is the first fatal crash of a civilian airliner in Spain in 23 years.

Original Story

1130 EDT: Authorities say at least 45 passengers were lost Wednesday when a Spanair MD-82 overran the runway on takeoff from Madrid Barajas International Airport.

Witness reports to CNN indicate Flight 5022 to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands suffered an unknown explosion during takeoff, and skidded off Runway 36R. Thick smoke still poured from the wreckage one hour after the crash.

Local media states the aircraft had aborted a previous takeoff attempt, and returned to the gate for maintenance. The flight then departed, about one hour past its scheduled time.

Scandinavian flag carrier SAS, which owns Spanair, confirmed the crash.

"Spanair regrets to confirm that its flight number JK 5022 from Madrid to Las Palmas de Gran Canarias was involved in an accident at Madrid, at 14.45 hours local time today," the airline said in a statement. "Spanair is doing everything possible to assist the Spanish authorities at this difficult time. Spanair will provide further information as soon as it becomes available."

The Associated Press quotes Spanish emergency ministers stating at least 20 of the reported 166 passengers and crew onboard were killed, and 57 were injured.

"It is a certain catastrophe," one unnamed official with SAMUR, Madrid's emergency response force, told the AP.

The flight was operating as a codeshare for Lufthansa.

ANN will update this story as more information becomes available.

FMI: www.spanair.com

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