153 Dead, 19 Survivors: 'Closest Thing to Hell'

MD-82 had technical issues earlier in the day; sister jet also had problems
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 20, 2008 6:50 PM CDT
A Red Cross worker speaks on her cell phone near the body of one of the 153 people killed when a Spanair jet crashed at Madrid airport today.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – The death toll from today's crash of a jetliner in Madrid reached 153—with only 19 survivors—as investigators sought to figure out what happened. The Spanair plane had aborted one takeoff because of an unspecified technical glitch, and passengers were warned they might have to disembark and change aircraft, the Telegraph reports. But it tried again an hour later, only to burst into flames after takeoff.

"It's the closest thing to hell I've seen," said one rescuer. A passenger on another plane said the MD-82 lifted off briefly, then landed hard on its left side and disintegrated into flames in a hayfield, the New York Times notes. A sister plane of the one that crashed had to make an emergency landing last week because of engine problems, the Telegraph notes.