MADRID, Spain – A jetliner owned by the same airline involved in a deadly plane crash in Madrid was forced to make an unscheduled stop Sunday because of a technical problem, the airline and Spanish aviation officials said.
Spanair Flight JK2565 was heading from the northeastern city of Barcelona to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands on Sunday when it had to divert to Malaga on Spain's southern coast. The Canary Islands was the same destination where Wednesday's Spanair jet was headed when it crashed during takeoff in Madrid's Barajas airport, killing 154 people.
There were no injuries in the Sunday incident, and the airline said the problem did not constitute an emergency. Spanair said the pilot detected a possible fault in a backup generator not required for flight and decided to land as a precaution, according to the Spanish news agency EFE.
The plane was an MD-82 — like the plane that crashed Wednesday — and had 141 people on board. It left Barcelona at 8:10 a.m. Sunday and was diverted to Malaga just over an hour later. The flight was later cancelled and the passengers put up at a hotel in the southern resort city, according to Spanish aviation authority AENA.
Passengers said they were annoyed by the change in plans, but most said they were not scared and would continue to fly.
"If you are neurotic about it, you'll never fly," passenger Francisco Carnicero told EFE.
Meanwhile, church bells tolled across the country as Spaniards prayed for victims and survivors of Wednesday's crash, with family members joining hundreds of others in religious services at Madrid's Almudena cathedral.
Adding to the pain for the shattered families of those killed, Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said authorities were having trouble identifying bodies from Wednesday's crash because the DNA of many victims was in such bad condition.
"We have to be certain that what we tell the families is the truth," Rubalcaba said. He assured relatives that forensic investigators were working "as hard as they can."
A total of 62 bodies had been identified by Sunday — including 7 using DNA evidence. Officials say DNA material has had to be brought in from outside the country for some of the 18 foreigners aboard the plane, further complicating the process.
Aviation officials say it could take weeks or months to find out what caused Wednesday's crash, the worst air disaster in Spain in a quarter century.
The Spanair jet abandoned a first attempt at takeoff because of a glitch in an air intake gauge. After technicians and the pilots believed that problem was resolved, the plane crashed on its second attempt to take off, bursting into flames and largely disintegrating.
One survivor told The Associated Press on Saturday that the plane never seemed to gain sufficient speed as it rumbled down the runway.
Initially, 19 people survived the flaming wreckage of the jet, but a 31-year-old badly burned woman died late Saturday. Officials said one of 18 remaining survivors — a 44-year-old woman with possible brain damage and other injuries — was in very critical condition.
Other injured passengers were showing signs of recovery, according to Aurora Fernandez, the La Paz hospital director. The co-director of the hospital, Antonio Burgueno, said a 41-year-old woman with leg injuries could be released soon.