MADRID, Spain – Video taken by the Spanish airport authority AENA does not show any engine explosion while Spanair MD-82 was taking off from Madrid seconds ahead of the crash that killed 153 people, Spanish media reported Friday.
Just 19 people survived Wednesday's crash in Madrid of the Spanair twin-engine plane bound for the Canary Islands. It was Spain's worst air disaster in 25 years.
Contrary to some accounts by witnesses, both the El Pais and ABC newspapers said airport security video showed no engine explosion. ABC reported the plane struggled to gain altitude, never getting higher than 50 yards up before it crashed, skidded, disintegrated and burned.
Spain's civil aviation chief speculated the airplane must have suffered more than one kind of failure, because engine failure alone would not be enough to bring the plane down.
"There has been more than one breakdown," Manuel Batista, the head of Spain's Civil Aviation, was quoted as saying by El Pais. "I am not so sure that the engine failed."
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Batista said modern aircraft are designed to fly on just one engine in an emergency and pilots must practice doing just this.
Investigators from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board in the United States and Boeing — which owns airplane maker McDonnell Douglas — and engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney have arrived in Spain to help with the probe.
The plane abandoned one takeoff attempt because of a mechanical problem with what the airline called an air intake gauge near the cockpit. But aviation experts have said this, too, was unlikely to have caused the crash.
The black boxes have been recovered but Spanair says one of them — the one that records technical data on the flight — is damaged.
Three of the survivors remained in critical condition Friday — and El Pais reported that five of the survivors had been sitting toward the front of the plane.
Relatives of those killed in the crash kept up the heart-wrenching ordeal of identifying bodies Friday. Many bodies were burned beyond recognition and forensic teams are taking DNA samples from relatives. Around 50 sets of remains have been identified
An official funeral presided over by Madrid Archbishop Antonio Maria Rouco has been scheduled for Sept. 1.
More stories of heroism and heartbreaking poignancy emerged.
Firefighter Francisco Martinez, part of the first teams to arrive on the fiery crash scene, told Thursday of Amalia Filloy, a mother severely injured in the crash, who insisted that rescuers pull her 11-year-old daughter Maria out first.
The woman died, along with an older daughter, but Maria survived, along with her father.
Martinez said he also rescued one of two little boys who survived the crash.
"He asked if what was happening was for real," Martinez told reporters. "He thought it was a movie, and asked where his father was and when the movie would end."
Pain and frustration started to boil over among relatives of the crash victims. Some stormed out of a tense and crowded meeting with Spanair officials Thursday night.
"We asked questions and they did not answer," said Yurena Hernandez Marquez, a 26-year-old who lost two half-sisters, aged 19 and 14, in the crash.